Tracy Audisio '10 (Biological Sciences)

Alumna discovers new spider family

Tracy Audisio
Sacramento State graduate Tracy Audisio is a budding arachnologist and co-author of the description of the new spider family Trogloraptoridae, which was featured by CNN, BBC Today, The New York Times, "PBS News Hour," Popular Science and Scientific American, among many other national and international media.

The article became the most successful ZooKeys paper in the history of that journal, with more than 15,000 views in less than 24 hours. The discovery is significant because “Trogloraptoridae is the first new spider family to be described in North America in nearly 140 years and provides clues to the evolutionary history of dysderoid spiders,” according to Audisio.

She developed an interest in cave fauna in 2006. In 2009, Audisio’s undergraduate adviser, Professor Ron Coleman, welcomed her into the Evolutionary Ecology of Fishes Lab to use the microscopy equipment to begin studying cave spiders as part of an independent research project. “Tracy has an extraordinary eye for detail,” Coleman says, “and an incredible work ethic. And she clearly has passion for her spiders. I could tell from her first project in my Animal Behavior course that she was capable of doing really nice work. Her determination and success are great examples for our students.”

In 2010, Audisio was selected as a fellow in the National Science Foundation-funded Summer Systematics Institute (SSI) at the California Academy of Sciences to work with Charles Griswold and Joel Ledford on a genus of cave-adapted spiders in California. During the program, she learned about phylogenetic systematics, molecular evolution and spider morphology. She was invited by the Western Cave Conservancy to assist with a biological inventory in a cave in southern Oregon, but due to her busy SSI schedule, she could not assist with the fieldwork.

Instead, she sent collecting gear and specific instructions for collecting spiders. “When the spiders arrived, I could not identify them, so I asked every member of the arachnology lab for assistance,” Audisio says. “I was primarily responsible for the molecular aspect of the project. I extracted DNA and sequenced three genetic markers for Trogloraptor and the related haplogyne families. The molecular project is ongoing and will continue to develop as new genetic loci are discovered and new specimens become available.”

Audisio is a student in the Ecology and Systematic Biology joint M.Sc. program between San Francisco State University and the California Academy of Sciences studying cave-adapted spiders in the genus Yorima (Araneae, Dictynidae).          

The ZooKeys article is available online.

Article written by Alan Miller, Sacramento State's Office of Public Affairs, published September 2012