Conservation Genetics and Genomics of Rare and Endangered Species

Science Center Objects

At the population level, Dr. Amy Vandergast and her team estimates important population parameters such as effective migration (or gene flow) and the number of breeding adults (or effective population size), and quantify the impacts of landscape changes and disturbance on these parameters. This work informs individual species management.

WERC Western Shovel-nosed Snake
Chionactis occipitalis (Western Shovel-nosed Snake) is a small colubrid snake inhabiting the arid regions of the Mojave, Sonoran, and Colorado deserts.

Species of management concern often have small population sizes and are subject to threats such as loss and fragmentation of habitat, and disturbance. We conduct genetic and genomic studies to identify populations with low genetic diversity and small sizes, and populations that are isolated because natural dispersal and migration patterns are inhibited. These populations may be more vulnerable to local extinction without management action. Work focuses on animal and plant species in California and the desert southwest and spans seven ecoregions. Science objectives include describing metapopulation structure and function, estimating gene flow and dispersal rates, effective population size, and the number of breeders, and testing hypotheses on the impacts of fragmentation and disturbance on population structure and the maintenance of genetic diversity within populations. Another objective is often defining evolutionary relationships among cryptic species or lineages (phylogeography and systematics). These studies typically represent the first genetic surveys for these species, and significantly add to existing system knowledge. Results guide species management actions such as habitat restoration, translocations and re-establishment programs and developing  long-term genetic monitoring plans.

Species list WERC

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