Rachel Zarndt is a graduate of UCSD's Biomedical Sciences program, and in 2014 successfully completed CARTA's Anthropogeny Specialization. As part of her CARTA experience, she traveled through the highlands of Ethiopia trekking with inhabitants of Ras Dejan. These Ethiopians have lived for multiple generations at high altitude for possibly the longest history of all modern humans.
Her thesis focused on comparative physiology and genetics of high altitude adaption in human and animal populations. For this, a unique population of hypoxia-adapted fruit flies raised for over 200+ generations under simulated high altitude, is useful to investigate key genetic pathways underlying physiologic response of the heart during low oxygen exposure. This research has direct relevance to human high altitude adaptations, particularly through use of genetic screens from highlands of Asia, South America, and Africa. Highlanders from South America can have chronic conditions from maladaptation to low oxygen exposure. For lowland dwellers, this research aids medical interventions in lowlanders who struggle to acclimatize and suffer altitude illness.
Today Rachel continues to travel to high altitude as often as possible, investing in the livelihood of those who live, work and travel at high altitude, or suffer from hypoxia-related illness. Her career involved using her high throughput PCR experience to assist COVID PCR screening at hospitals during the pandemic.
Today Rachel works for the US government, writing and reviewing scientific grants for conservation in the wild habitats she loves most, and an applied animal behavior consultant for veterinary behaviorists.