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Science Center Objects
The use of molecular genetics has become increasingly important in addressing wildlife conservation issues. In the Fort Collins Science Center Molecular Ecology Lab, scientists answer complex questions and conservation issues facing the management of the Nation's fish and wildlife resources. For example, FORT scientists can now locate genes that may contribute to a species' ability to respond to environmental changes such as climate change, identify species and sometimes even the population of origin with a sample feather, track genetic differences between breeding populations for migratory animals (like birds, fish, and sea turtles) to a particular breeding population, or even perform genomic scans in individuals from a single species to look for variation of genes that are important for adaptation.
TSH geneticists use genetic information to augment studies of population dynamics and population viability, investigate population structure and gene flow, estimate population size and survival rates, and document genetic diversity. Newer and more comprehensive genomic methods are increasingly being used to: study the structure, function, and expression of genes and their response to environmental stressors; elucidate how geographical and environmental features structure genetic processes such as gene flow, genetic drift, and selection; identify, track, and make predictions regarding emerging infectious diseases; and monitor and predict the impacts of invasive species and contaminants on wildlife and ecosystems.
The Molecular Ecology Laboratory applies genetic and genomic technologies to address a variety of complex questions and conservation issues facing the management of the Nation's fish and wildlife resources. Together with our partners, we design and implement studies to document genetic diversity and the distribution of genetic variation among individuals, populations, and species. Information from these studies is used to support wildlife-management planning and conservation actions. Current and past studies have provided information to assess taxonomic boundaries, inform listing decisions made under the Endangered Species Act, identify unique or genetically depauperate populations, estimate population size or survival rates, develop management or recovery plans, breed wildlife in captivity, relocate wildlife from one location to another, and assess the effects of environmental change.
Genetic analysis is increasingly used to understand ecosystem processes and inform conservation, management, and policy. I assist USGS researchers and their collaborators in the design, analysis, and interpretation of high-throughput genetic studies. Common applications include: detecting genes responsive to particular environmental stressors in a sentinel species or species of conservation concern; generating reference genome sequences of pathogens for functional or evolutionary analysis; identifying genetic variation that distinguish populations or species; using “barcode” sequences to identify species in gut contents, feces, or environmental samples.
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