Zeka Elaine Kuspa


University of California, Santa Cruz                                                    September 2012-Present

Ph.D. Candidate, GPA 4.0/4.0

Department of Microbiology and Environmental Toxicology

University of California, Davis                                                                      August 2005 – June 2009

Bachelor of Science degree, GPA 3.64/4.0

Major in Environmental Biology and Management

Emphasis in Environmental Biology

EAP Tropical Ecology & Conservation Program                                           Spring, 2008

Monteverde Institute, Costa Rica

University of California, Santa Cruz                                                                      Fall, 2004

Completed ETOX 80E: Aquatic Toxicology

UCSC High School Honors Exchange Program


  • 4 years analytical toxicology lab experience
  • 7 years collecting data in field settings/wild bird handling
  • 5 years working in/with an endangered species recovery program
  • 2 academic quarters teaching experience


Raptor Biology, Sub-lethal Effects of Contaminants, Endangered Species Management, Impacts of Lead in the Environment, Glucocorticoid Stress Response


Finkelstein, M. E.; Kuspa, Z. E.; Welch, A.; Eng, C.; Clark, M.; Burnett, J.; Smith, D. R. Linking cases of illegal shootings of the endangered California condor using stable lead isotope analysis. Environ. Res. 2014, 134C, 270–279.

Flegal, A.R., C. Gallon, S. Hibdon, Z.E. Kuspa, and L.F. Laporte, Declining but Persistent Atmospheric Contamination in Central California from the Resuspension of Historic Leaded Gasoline Emissions As Recorded in the Lace Lichen (Ramalina menziesii Taylor) from 1892 to 2006. Environmental Science and Technology 44: 5613-5618.


Kuspa, Z.E., C. Tubbs, D.R. Smith, M.E. Finkelstein. Looking beyond mortalities: Lead exposure and stress in the California condor (Gymnogyps californianus). Raptor Research Foundation Annual Meeting, November 6, 2015, Oral Presentation.

Kuspa, Z.E., D.R. Smith, M.E. Finkelstein. Update: California Condor Stress Hormone Measurements. Condor Recovery Program Annual Field Team Meeting, September 30, 2015, Oral Presentation.

Kuspa, Z. E., Smith, D. R., Finkelstein, M. E., Hormonal stress response of the chronically lead-exposed California condor (Gymnogyps californianus). NorCal SETAC Annual Meeting, April 30, 2015, Oral Presentation.

Kuspa, Z. E., Smith, D. R., Finkelstein, M. E., Stress and the chronically lead-exposed California condor (Gymnogyps californianus)., UC Santa Cruz Graduate Student Symposium, April 24, 2015, Oral Presentation.

Kuspa, Z. E., Finkelstein, M. E., Eng, C., Wolstenholme, R., Goodnight, A., Smith, D. R. Hormonal stress response of the chronically lead-exposed California condor (Gymnogyps californianus). AOU/COS/SCO Joint Annual Meeting, September 25, 2014, Poster Presentation.

Kuspa, Z.E. ,M.E. Finkelstein, C. En, A. Goodnight, R. Wolstenholme, D.R. Smith, Using fecal samples to characterize the stress response of the chronically lead-exposed California condor (Gymnogyps californianus). NorCal SETAC Annual Meeting, May 7, 2014, Poster Presentation.

Kuspa, Z.E., Stress hormones in condors as a sub-lethal marker of lead exposure. California Condor Recovery Program Annual Field Team Meeting, November 6, 2013, Oral Presentation

Kuspa, Z.E., M.F. Finkelstein, A. Welch, M. Clark, J. Burnett, D.R. Smith. May 2012. Investigating a wildlife shooting event with lead isotopic analysis. Society for Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, Northern California Chapter Annual Meeting, Sacramento.

Kuspa, Z. E. June 2008. Characteristics and variation of black-faced solitaire (Myadestes melanops) songs in the Monteverde region. Monteverde Institute Undergraduate Research Symposium, Monteverde, Costa Rica


Graduate Researcher, UC Santa Cruz, Ca

September 2012-Present

Generated tables and written content for a manuscript on an illegal shooting incident involving California condors. Analyzed condor plasma samples for antimony and lead concentrations. Delivered oral presentations in departmental seminars and scientific meetings. Designed thesis research on endocrine system function in lead poisoned birds. Built a new sampling tool for collecting feces non-invasively. Measured hormone concentrations in tissue extracts using immunoassays and liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry. Used geographic information system modelling to predict and map lead exposure risk within the California condor range.

Lab Assistant IV, UC Santa Cruz, Ca

June 2012-September 2012

Conducted trace metal digests of condor feathers and blood for lead isotope analyses by inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. Collected and transported blood and feather samples. Prepared plasma and red blood cell aliquots. Analyzed fragments from ungulate carcasses for metal content.

Condor Crew Intern, Pinnacles National Monument, Paicines, Ca

May 2012

Monitored the Central California flock as part of the California Condor Reintroduction Program. Trapped and handled wild condors for chelation treatment and health checks. Tested blood lead concentration in the field using LeadCare I and II kits©. Input observational data into MS Access.

Condor Crew Intern, Ventana Wildlife Society, Big Sur, Ca

August 2011-April 2012

Monitored the Central California flock as part of the California Condor Reintroduction Program. Tracked condor movements and collected data using radiotelemetry and gps units. Conducted behavioral observations of captive condors. Trapped and handled wild condors for blood work. Placed stillborn calves on ridge tops as supplemental food source.

Back-Country Bird Survey Intern, Institute for Bird Populations, Sequoia and Kings Canyon, Ca

April 2011-August 2011

Established transects in remote locations for first year of bird monitoring program. Conducted point counts of breeding birds using sight and sound identification skills. Recorded habitat type according to California’s Wildlife Habitat Relationships (WHR) protocol. Used maps, compass, and GPS unit to orienteer and collect spatial data. Entered tabular data into MS Access database.

Research Intern, Golden Gate Raptor Observatory, Marin Headlands, Ca

June 2009-December 2009

Conducted organized counts of migrating raptors. Banded and released wild hawks after taking on-site measurements and feather samples. Tracked juvenile red-tailed hawks using radio-telemetry. Cared for lure bird colony. Interacted with volunteers and members of the public through formal presentations and in small group settings. Entered and analyzed data using dBase and Excel.

Wood Duck and Mallard Research Intern, Wildlife & Fish Conservation Biology Department, UC Davis

March 2009-June 2009

Monitored use of Wood Duck nest boxes and Mallard tubes in the Central Valley. Took morphometric measurements of nesting females and eggs. Used handheld GPS device to record location of nests.

Bird Ecology Research Intern, Plant Sciences Department, UC Davis

September 2008-March 2009

Trained to identify birds of the Central Valley by sight and sound. Performed multi-species point counts and field observations on the feeding behavior of wild birds. Recorded accurate data on site. Conducted food preference experiments on captive hermit thrushes.Worked independently without supervision.

Student Assistant II, Pomology Department, UC Davis

October 2008-June 2009

Cared for almond trees, peach trees, strawberry plants, and roses in greenhouses. Recorded data on individual plant growth patterns and disease susceptibility. Took part in the almond harvest and selective pollination of mature peach trees.

Student, EAP Study Abroad Program, Monteverde, Costa Rica

March 2008-June 2008

Learned field methods and participated in small group research projects. Conducted independent research on the characteristics and variation of black-faced solitaire (Myadestes melanops) songs in the Monteverde region. Wrote a formal scientific paper and presented findings to the public in a research symposium.

Lab Assistant IV, ETOX Department, UC Santa Cruz

June-September 2006, 2007

Participated in boat-side water sampling and sample analysis in the San Francisco Bay. Trained new interns. Collected lichen samples. Conducted lead digests. Ran mass spectrometer to discover isotopic ratios of digested samples. Used trace metal clean lab techniques.

Scientist, Thompson S. Thompson Research Vessel, Gulf of Alaska

August 2007

Participated in boat-side water sampling and on-board chlorophyll analysis in the Gulf of Alaska. Cooperated and collaborated with multiple scientists on six week ocean voyage.


Condor Biology Consultant/Guest Bogger/Social Media Technician, CondorWatch Program, Zooniverse,

April 2014-Present

Participant, Communicating Sustainability Science and Policy Intensive, UC Santa Cruz

September 2015

Reader/Scientific Writing Coach and Guest Lecturer, METX 101: Sources and Fates of Toxic Pollutants, UC Santa Cruz

April 2015-June 2015

Interview Guest, “Science Sort Of” Podcast,

August, 2014

Guest Lecturer, Conservation Biology, UC Sana Cruz

May 2014

Student Science Teacher, Westlake School 2nd Grade, UC Santa Cruz Communicating Science Grad Course

September 2014-December 2014


Graduate Student Liason, Microbiology and Environmental Toxicology Department, UC Santa Cruz

July 2015-Present

Student Board Member/Member Communications Technician, Society for Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry NorCal Chapter

September 2014-Present

Officer and Naturalist Group Organizer, Women in Science and Engineering, UC Santa Cruz Chapter

January 2014-Present

Participant, Bird Haven College Student Waterfowl Hunter’s Camp, UC Davis

January 2013

Raptor Biologist and Volunteer Supervisor, Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group, UC Santa Cruz

May 2010

Volunteer, Pinnacles Condor Project, Pinnacles National Monument, Ca

April 2010-December 2010

Volunteer, Golden Gate Raptor Observatory, Marin Headlands, Ca

June 2010-Present


Field Techniques

Radio-telemetry, GPS, behavioral observations of wild/captive animals, identification of wild birds by sight and sound, trapping and banding wild birds, taking morphometric measurements of wild birds, transect surveys of plants and animals, in situ water sampling, operating a 4-wheel drive vehicle, orienteering, collecting samples for trace metal clean analyses.

Laboratory Techniques

Trace metal clean lab technique, preparing analytical standards, weighing samples, operating a flourometer, operating a mass spectrometer, steroid hormone extraction from biological materials, quantifying hormones by liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry, conducting acid digests to isolate heavy metals, enzyme-linked immunoassay, radioimmunoassay, basic skills for gross necropsy of raptor species.

Communication Skills

Grant writing, scientific writing, PowerPoint presentations, social media, inter-organization collaborations


Microsoft Office Applications (Word, Excel, Access, PowerPoint), SigmaPlot, ArcMAP (ESRI), JMP


Lab Safety: General Lab Safety and Animal Use, UC Santa Cruz

Wilderness First Aid Certification, Outdoor Adventures of UC Davis

Licensed Hunter in California, California Waterfowl Association


Graduate Student Fellow, National Science Foundation, 2012- Present

Travel Grant, NorCal SETAC Annual Meeting, 2015

Association of Zoos and Aquariums Conservation Endowment Fund Grant, 2014

2nd Place Student Poster Presentation, NorCal SETAC Annual Meeting, 2014

Western National Parks Association Grant for research at Pinnacles, NP, 2013

Travel Grant, Graduate Student Association, UC Santa Cruz, 2013

2nd Place Student Platform Presentation, NorCal SETAC Annual Meeting, 2013

NorCal SETAC Graduate Student Research Scholarship, 2013

UC Regents Scholarship, 2012-2013

Recipient of a Departmental Citation in Environmental Biology and Management, UC Davis

Completed Integrated Studies Honors Program, UC Davis, 2005-2006

Dean’s List, UC Davis, Fall 2005, Winter 2006

Academic Achievement Scholarship, UC Davis, 2005-2006


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