Cynthia Steiner, Ph.D.

Associate Director

Dr. Cynthia Steiner serves San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance as an Associate Director in Conservation Genetics. In this role, she works to develop genetic and genomic tools for studying and monitoring threatened species in zoos and the wild. Her research interests include the study of mammalian taxonomy and evolutionary history, chromosome evolution, the genetic basis of adaptive traits and hybrid sterility, the development of genetic tools for species identification and sexing, and the application of genomic technologies to assist with management of threatened populations.

Cynthia is currently working on a variety of projects including 1) genetic variation, geographic structure, and demography of critically endangered species such as western lowland gorillas and Sumatran rhinos, 2) the development of a genetic test for identifying carriers of lethal disease in the managed California condor population, and 3) the detection of adaptive genetic variation in the mountain yellow-legged frog to inform management of the captive population.

Cynthia earned her bachelor’s degree in Biology at the University Simon Bolivar in Caracas, Venezuela, and her master’s and doctorate degrees in the Evolutionary Biology at the University of Montpellier, France, where she worked on the phylogeny and phylogeography of South American marsupials. Cynthia came to the United States in 2004 to complete a postdoctoral appointment with Dr. Hopi Hoekstra at the University of California, San Diego, studying the genetic basis of adaptive traits in the deer mouse. She pursued a second postdoc in the Genetics Division, reviewing the phylogeny and evolutionary history of threatened mammals. Cynthia’s research primarily takes place in the laboratory, but she is truly passionate about nature. Her past work includes field studies in Venezuela and French Guiana studying small mammals.