Sara Oyler-McCance, Ph.D.
Dr. Sara J. Oyler-McCance is a research geneticist with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) at the Fort Collins Science Center (FORT). She has worked for USGS since 1999 as a conservation geneticist leading the Molecular Ecology Lab at FORT. She 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. 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.
- Ph.D. in Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology, Colorado State University, 1999
- M.S. in Wildlife Biology, University of Maine, 1993
- B.S. in Biology, University of Michigan, 1991
- Affiliate Faculty, Ecosystem Science and Sustainability, Colorado State University
- Affiliate Faculty, Graduate Degree Program in Ecology, Colorado State University
Science and Products
This goal of this study is to develop a spatially explicit habitat-population modeling framework to assess the viability of Gunnison Sage-grouse and each of the seven populations (Gunnison Basin and six satellite populations).
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.
Conservation genomics is a new field of science that applies novel whole-genome sequencing technology to problems in conservation biology. Rapidly advancing molecular technologies are revolutionizing wildlife ecology, greatly expanding our understanding of wildlife and their interactions with the environment. In the same way that molecular tools such as microsatellites revolutionized wildlife management in the past, evolving genomic-level data collection techniques are beginning to offer powerful ways to assess biodiversity, taxonomy, hybridization, diets, demography, disease resistance and outbreaks, and even local adaptation.
Landscape genetics is a recently developed discipline that involves the merger of molecular population genetics and landscape ecology. The goal of this new field of study is to provide information about the interaction between landscape features and microevolutionary processes such as gene flow, genetic drift, and selection allowing for the understanding of processes that generate genetic structure across space.
Population genetics is an area of research that examines the distribution of genetic variation and levels of genetic diversity within and between populations. This information provides insights into the level of connectedness of populations throughout a species’ range and can be used to identify unique populations or those with low levels of genetic diversity.
Molecular tagging is a new application of molecular genetic techniques to traditional mark-recapture methodology designed to address situations where traditional methods fail. In such studies, non-invasively collected samples (such as feces, feathers, or fur) are used as a source of DNA that is then genotyped at multiple loci such that each individual animal can be uniquely identified. Thus, each individual’s DNA represents a unique tag analogous to a band or other mark used in traditional mark-recapture studies.
Environmental DNA (eDNA) is organismal DNA that can be found in the environment. Environmental DNA originates from cellular material shed by organisms (via skin, excrement, etc.) into aquatic or terrestrial environments that can be sampled and monitored using new molecular methods. Such methodology is important for the early detection of invasive species as well as the detection of rare and cryptic species.
Taxonomic uncertainty can be assessed using genetic data, along with other lines of evidence (such as morphological and behavioral characteristics). Such data can be used to identify and assess taxonomic boundaries (species, subspecies, hybrids) and in many cases redefine them. Such delineations are highly relevant for species status determinations (endangered, threatened, or at-risk).
Family relationships and mating systems can be investigated and defined using genetic data. This information is potentially important for conservation and management as it may influence effective population size and levels of genetic diversity.
Extensive shared polymorphism at non-MHC immune genes in recently diverged North American prairie grouse
Gene polymorphisms shared between recently diverged species are thought to be widespread and most commonly reflect introgression from hybridization or retention of ancestral polymorphism through incomplete lineage sorting. Shared genetic diversity resulting from incomplete lineage sorting is usually maintained for a relatively short period of time...Minias, Piotr; Bateson, Zachary W.; Whittingham, Linda A.; Johnson, Jeff A.; Oyler-McCance, Sara J.; Dunn, Peter O.
Sage grouse are a group of chicken-sized birds with a unique breeding behavior and dependence on sagebrush shrubs (genus Artemisia) for food and shelter throughout their life cycle. In the last century, human population expansion throughout western North America has reduced the amount of sagebrush and degraded and fragmented the remaining areas....Zimmerman, Shawna; Timmer, Jennifer M.; Aldridge, Cameron L.; Oyler-McCance, Sara J.; Braun, Clait E.; Young, Jessica R.
Developing approaches for linear mixed modeling in landscape genetics through landscape-directed dispersal simulations
Dispersal can impact population dynamics and geographic variation, and thus, genetic approaches that can establish which landscape factors influence population connectivity have ecological and evolutionary importance. Mixed models that account for the error structure of pairwise datasets are increasingly used to compare models relating genetic...Row, Jeffrey R.; Knick, Steven T.; Oyler-McCance, Sara J.; Lougheed, Stephen C.; Fedy, Bradley C.
Polygamy slows down population divergence in shorebirds
Sexual selection may act as a promotor of speciation since divergent mate choice and competition for mates can rapidly lead to reproductive isolation. Alternatively, sexual selection may also retard speciation since polygamous individuals can access additional mates by increased breeding dispersal. High breeding dispersal should hence increase...Jackson, Josephine D'Urban; dos Remedios, Natalie; Maher, Kathryn; Zefania, Sama; Haig, Susan M.; Oyler-McCance, Sara J.; Blomqvist, Donald; Burke, Terry; Bruford, Michael W.; Székely, Tamás; Küpper, Clemens
Integration of genetic and demographic data to assess population risk in a continuously distributed species
The identification and demographic assessment of biologically meaningful populations is fundamental to species’ ecology and management. Although genetic tools are used frequently to identify populations, studies often do not incorporate demographic data to understand their respective population trends. We used genetic data to define subpopulations...Fedy, Bradley C.; Row, Jeffery R.; Oyler-McCance, Sara J.
Latent spatial models and sampling design for landscape genetics
We propose a spatially-explicit approach for modeling genetic variation across space and illustrate how this approach can be used to optimize spatial prediction and sampling design for landscape genetic data. We propose a multinomial data model for categorical microsatellite allele data commonly used in landscape genetic studies, and introduce a...Hanks, Ephraim M.; Hooten, Mevin B.; Knick, Steven T.; Oyler-McCance, Sara J.; Fike, Jennifer A.; Cross, Todd B.; Schwartz, Michael K.
Critical considerations for the application of environmental DNA methods to detect aquatic species
Species detection using environmental DNA (eDNA) has tremendous potential for contributing to the understanding of the ecology and conservation of aquatic species. Detecting species using eDNA methods, rather than directly sampling the organisms, can reduce impacts on sensitive species and increase the power of field surveys for rare and elusive...Goldberg, Caren S.; Turner, Cameron R.; Deiner, Kristy; Klymus, Katy E.; Thomsen, Philip Francis; Murphy, Melanie A.; Spear, Stephen F.; McKee, Anna; Oyler-McCance, Sara J.; Cornman, Robert S.; Laramie, Matthew B.; Mahon, Andrew R.; Lance, Richard F.; Pilliod, David S.; Strickler, Katherine M.; Waits, Lisette P.; Fremier, Alexander K.; Takahara, Teruhiko; Herder, Jelger E.; Taberlet, Pierre
Differential influences of local subpopulations on regional diversity and differentiation for greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus)
The distribution of spatial genetic variation across a region can shape evolutionary dynamics and impact population persistence. Local population dynamics and among-population dispersal rates are strong drivers of this spatial genetic variation, yet for many species we lack a clear understanding of how these population processes interact in space...Row, Jeffery R.; Oyler-McCance, Sara J.; Fedy, Brad C.
A field ornithologist’s guide to genomics: Practical considerations for ecology and conservation
Vast improvements in sequencing technology have made it practical to simultaneously sequence millions of nucleotides distributed across the genome, opening the door for genomic studies in virtually any species. Ornithological research stands to benefit in three substantial ways. First, genomic methods enhance our ability to parse and...Oyler-McCance, Sara J.; Oh, Kevin; Langin, Kathryn; Aldridge, Cameron L.
Contrasting evolutionary histories of MHC class I and class II loci in grouse—Effects of selection and gene conversion
Genes of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) encode receptor molecules that are responsible for recognition of intracellular and extracellular pathogens (class I and class II genes, respectively) in vertebrates. Given the different roles of class I and II MHC genes, one might expect the strength of selection to differ between these two...Minias, Piotr; Bateson, Zachary W.; Whittingham, Linda A.; Johnson, Jeff A.; Oyler-McCance, Sara J.; Dunn, Peter O.
Gunnison Sage-Grouse Centrocercus minimus
No abstract availableYoung, Jessica R.; Braun, Clait E.; Oyler-McCance, Sara J.; Aldridge, Cameron L.; Magee, Patrick; Schroeder, Michael A.
Z chromosome divergence, polymorphism and relative effective population size in a genus of lekking birds
Sex chromosomes contribute disproportionately to species boundaries as they diverge faster than autosomes and often have reduced diversity. Their hemizygous nature contributes to faster divergence and reduced diversity, as do some types of selection. In birds, other factors (mating system and bottlenecks) can further decrease the effective...Oyler-McCance, Sara J.; Cornman, Robert S.; Kenneth L. Jones; Fike, Jennifer