Jennifer Cooper

Visiting Assistant Professor

Office Location: Rieke Science Center - 152

Office Hours: (On Campus) Tue: 12:45 pm - 1:45 pm (Off Campus) Mon - Fri: By Appointment

Curriculum Vitae: View my CV

  • Professional


  • Ph.D., Biological Sciences, Purdue University, 2009
  • M.S., Biological Anthropology, Purdue University, 2001
  • B.S., Zoology, University of Texas at Austin, 1999
  • B.A., Anthropology, University of Texas at Austin, 1999

Research Projects


    My student-driven research program uses the California ground squirrel as a model to address questions about the evolution of mammals within a human-modified landscape. The Central Valley of California is a drastically altered environment, with almost every square mile of arable land dedicated to food production, but CGS population densities are very high in the Valley even after years of drought. CGS are deserving of special attention because they have maintained historical ranges in the face of extensive and extreme modifications to their habitat. What traits allow this species to adapt to a human-modified landscape, and what factors influence the persistence of CGS populations? Graduate and undergraduate research students work on a diverse array of projects which address these questions, using ecological, behavioral, microbiological and genetic approaches. We have been live-trapping CGS in three National Wildlife Refuges in the Central Valley since 2015, and we have collected data from almost 1000 individual CGS. We have generated the first population genetic data for this species using microsatellite markers, which allowed us to describe the mating system and dispersal pattern in CGS. Now we have extended our genetic data collection to include gut microbiome sequencing and MHC gene sequencing, which we will couple with microsatellite data to explore how individual genotype and microbiome profile are correlated with traits important for fitness, such as parasite resistance, bilateral symmetry and body condition.

    In addition to genetic analyses, we also perform vegetation surveys in wildlife refuges, and use ArcGIS to create landscape-based maps of CGS food availability based on the distribution of natural forage foods compared to human crops in nearby orchards and farmlands. Recently, we have employed remote cameras to record field experiments, in which we manipulate food availability to address how individual traits and genotype influence social hierarchy and foraging effort.

Selected Presentations

  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife, Estimating sex-bias in dispersal in three Central Valley populations of California ground squirrels (Otospermophilus beecheyi) using microsatellite-based analyses, Los Banos (2018)
  • Dinner with a Scientist, A Ground Squirrel Odyssey”: Studying dispersal in California ground squirrels, California State University, Stanislaus (2018)

Peer Reviewed Journals

  • Cooper JD, Waser PM, DeWoody JA (2011). "Is sexual monomorphism a predictor of polygynandry? Evidence from a social mammal, the collared peccary." Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 65, 775-785.
  • Gongora J, Biondo C, Cooper JD, Taber A, Keuroghlian A, Altrichter M, Ferreira do Nascimento F, Chong AY, Miyaki CY, Bodmer R, Mayor P, González S. (2011). "Revisiting the species status of Pecari maximus van Roosmalen et al., 2007 (Mammalia) from the Brazilian Amazon." Bonn Zoological Bulletin, 60, 95-101.


  • Featured Female Scientist, Women's History Month Highlight for STEM Success, March 2021
  • Outstanding SERSCA Contributions Award: Graduate Assistantship Sponsorship, 2019
  • Outstanding SERSCA Contributions Award: Undergraduate Assistantship Sponsorship, 2019
  • Outstanding SERSCA Contributions Award: Mini Grant Sponsorship, 2019

Professional Memberships/Organizations