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Amy Vandergast

Dr. Amy Vandergast is a Research Geneticist with the Western Ecological Research Center.

She develops and leads a research program in Conservation and Landscape Genetics and Genomics. Broadly, she seeks to understand how natural and human induced landscape and environmental change impact populations, and shape evolutionary potential. Dr. Vandergast's laboratory group approaches genetic research to inform conservation in three focal areas. 1) At the population level, the team estimates important population parameters such as effective migration (or gene flow) and the number of breeding adults (or effective population size), and quantifies the impacts of landscape changes and disturbance on these parameters. This work informs individual species management. 2) Dr. Vandergast's lab also merges genetic data with mapping and modeling tools to inform biodiversity conservation efforts. Specifically, they define evolutionary significant units within species, reveal evolutionary mechanisms responsible for diversification, and identify regions with high genetic diversity for protection. 3) The team develops genetic approaches for species detection, individual mark recapture, and studies ecological associations (such as predator/prey relationships). These techniques often increase monitoring effectiveness and efficiency when replacing or combining with standard field methodologies.


  • Landscape genetics
  • Population genetics
  • Conservation biology
  • Habitat fragmentation
  • Terrestrial invertebrate ecology and evolution
  • Linkage design and monitoring


Professional Experience

  • Geneticist. USGS Western Ecological Research Center, San Diego Field Station (2004-Present)

  • Adjunct Research Professor. San Diego State University, Department of Biology (2002-Present)

  • Lecturer. San Diego State University, Department of Biology and Cuyamaca College Department of Biology (2002)

Education and Certifications

  • Ph.D., Environmental Science, Policy & Management: Division of Insect Biology, University of California, Berkeley (2002)

  • M.S., Department of Zoology; Ecology, Evolution & Conservation Biology, University of Hawaii, Manoa (1998)

  • B.S., Ecology, Behavior and Evolution, University of California, San Diego (1995)

Science and Products