Daniela Chavez is a postdoctoral Research Associate at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo where she studies domestic cat egg cells to improve artificial reproduction for endangered felids and other mammals including humans.  This research is important for conservation of critically endangered big cats that struggle to reproduce naturally and maintain healthy population sizes and a diverse gene pool.

The focus of her research is to understand what is required for healthy egg cell development that results in an egg capable of fertilization and embryo development.  This work uses donated reproductive tracts from spay and neuter clinics.  Daniela also assists with the zoo’s biobank, where sperm and eggs from over 100 different animal species are opportunistically collected and stored for research and conservation. Occasionally, Daniela is part of a team that collects sperm from various animals at the zoo that are undergoing routine health checks, including Andean bears, panda bears and several big cats.

Daniela grew up in Salt Lake City Utah. She began her undergraduate studies at Salt Lake Community College in 2006 before transferring to Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. After receiving a Bachelors of Science in biology in 2010, Daniela spent some time working as a lab technician and briefly worked for the National Park Service. In 2018, Daniela completed her Ph.D. at the University of Utah in the Department of Human Genetics, where her studies focused on molecular biology, genetics, and sperm biology in C. elegans.

Daniela is also an advocate for diversity in science and an active member of various groups that strive to increase representation in reproductive and conservation science.  Daniela joined the Department of Reproductive Sciences at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington D.C. in 2018.