Dear MS Biology and PhD Biosciences Students

Please see lab opportunity at Smithsonian forwarded by Dr. Baranova below.



Kimberly Harris, Graduate Student Services Coordinator
School of Systems Biology - College of Science
George Mason University Sci-Tech Campus
Manassas Virginia 20110
703-993-4263 or 703-993-8976 fax

From: Anna V. Baranova <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Monday, May 3, 2021 12:48 PM
To: Kimberly L Harris <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: MS Thesis project available (data analysis in Elephant Endocrinology), may results in manuscript publication

Dear Kim  please post it for our students (MS in Biol and also suitable as lab rotation for PhD in BIOS) 

Dear students - there is an MS Thesis/ MS project available , with advisers in Smithsonian/Shenandoah site. Please send me your resume (at [log in to unmask]), so I can connect you with advisers. Project is suitable for ALL MS in Biology concentrations, except MID, and also as a lab rotation for PhD student. Project is in data analysis mostly. May involve one or two in person meetings. 

‘Investigating individual variability in estrous cycle hormone patterns in female zoo African elephants’.


Evaluating ovarian cycle activity through longitudinal progestagen monitoring is important for optimizing breeding management of captive elephants and is a service our endocrine lab has been providing to U.S. zoos for almost three decades. We have data on more than 150 African elephants monitored for 5-20 years. We also help zoos time artificial insemination through analysis of LH during the follicular phase; two surges occur ~3 weeks apart, with the second one indicating impending ovulation. We have noted over the years that many African elephants do not have regular cycles, some do not cycle at all, and others switch between the two states.  The LH patterns also do not appear to be as consistent as what we have noted for Asian elephants. This study will summarize serum progestagen and LH patterns for African elephants in our service lab database to establish the world’s most comprehensive evaluation of individual estrous cycle characteristics.  Identification of the range and degree of inter-animal variability will help us understand the complexities of herd reproductive characteristics, which could facilitate development of more effective institution-specific breeding management strategies.


That project will need a student that is very detail oriented and not easily bored.  It will be mainly going through each zoo’s spreadsheet and make individual graphs for each elephant, then calculating a baseline for progestagens, and then identifying duration of each follicular and luteal phase.  For LH it will require determining time between the progestagen drop and the first LH surge, and then between the two LH surges, and finally when progestagens increased after the second LH surge.  Natalia has a lot of demographic data from the studbook that is >5 yrs old and so that could be updated so we can look at cycle characteristics in relation to wild vs captive born, number of zoo transfers, perhaps climate or zoo location, age, parity and possibly others. 


OR that might end up being two papers – one to establish the cycle patterns and the other to look at factors related to long-term cyclicity.