ORLANDO, Fla., July 1 (UPI) -- University of Central Florida student Rosanna Tursi says population genetics may help save an endangered rabbit species in the Florida Lower Keys.
Tursi, a graduate student at Central Florida, said on the school's Web site she hopes to save members of the Sylvilagus palustris hefneri species that are being threatened by natural predators and the ongoing destruction of their natural habitat, the Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel said Tuesday.
"Nature and conservation of wildlife have always been my passion, and I wanted to use my molecular and genetic knowledge to help endangered species," Tursi said.
Tursi and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service workers are studying the species in the Florida Keys and the Everglades as part of an awarded grant, the Sentinel said.
The graduate teaching assistant said the hefneri bunnies, which number nearly 300, are representative of how a species' genetic diversity and adaptation skills can impact its chances of survival in nature.
"The loss of genetic diversity can have long-term repercussions by affecting the evolutionary potential of the species," she said.