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
Incorporating Genetic Data into Spatially-explicit Population Viability Models for Gunnison Sage-grouse
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...
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...
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...
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,...
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...
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.
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.
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
Potential demographic and genetic effects of a sterilant applied to wild horse mares
Wild horse populations on western ranges can increase rapidly, resulting in the need for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to remove animals in order to protect the habitat that horses share with numerous other species. As an alternative to removals, BLM has sought to develop a long-term, perhaps even permanent, contraceptive to aid in reducing...Roelle, James E.; Oyler-McCance, Sara J.
Landscape characteristics influencing the genetic structure of greater sage-grouse within the stronghold of their range: a holistic modeling approach
Given the significance of animal dispersal to population dynamics and geographic variability, understanding how dispersal is impacted by landscape patterns has major ecological and conservation importance. Speaking to the importance of dispersal, the use of linear mixed models to compare genetic differentiation with pairwise resistance derived...Row, Jeff R; Oyler-McCance, Sara J.; Fike, Jennifer; O'Donnell, Michael; Doherty, Kevin E.; Aldridge, Cameron L.; Bowen, Zachary H.; Fedy, Brad C.
Development of 13 microsatellites for Gunnison Sage-grouse (Centrocercus minimus) using next-generation shotgun sequencing and their utility in Greater Sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus)
Gunnison Sage-grouse are an obligate sagebrush species that has experienced significant population declines and has been proposed for listing under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. In order to examine levels of connectivity among Gunnison Sage-grouse leks, we identified 13 novel microsatellite loci though next-generation shotgun sequencing, and...Fike, Jennifer A.; Oyler-McCance, Sara J.; Zimmerman, Shawna J; Castoe, Todd A.
Blood from a turnip: tissue origin of low-coverage shotgun sequencing libraries affects recovery of mitogenome sequences
Next generation sequencing methods allow rapid, economical accumulation of data that have many applications, even at relatively low levels of genome coverage. However, the utility of shotgun sequencing data sets for specific goals may vary depending on the biological nature of the samples sequenced. We show that the ability to assemble mitogenomes...Barker, F. Keith; Oyler-McCance, Sara; Tomback, Diana F.
Two low coverage bird genomes and a comparison of reference-guided versus de novo genome assemblies
As a greater number and diversity of high-quality vertebrate reference genomes become available, it is increasingly feasible to use these references to guide new draft assemblies for related species. Reference-guided assembly approaches may substantially increase the contiguity and completeness of a new genome using only low levels of genome...Card, Daren C.; Schield, Drew R.; Reyes-Velasco, Jacobo; Fujita, Matthre K.; Andrew, Audra L.; Oyler-McCance, Sara J.; Fike, Jennifer A.; Tomback, Diana F.; Ruggiero, Robert P.; Castoe, Todd A.
Genetic tools for wildlife management
Granted interim status in November, 2013, The Wildlife Society’s (TWS) Molecular Ecology Working Group aims to promote scientific advancement by applying molecular techniques to wildlife ecology, management, and conservation. The working group—composed of sci - entists from diverse backgrounds—met for the first time in Pittsburgh at the TWS Annual...Latch, Emily; Crowhurst, Rachel S.; Oyler-McCance, Sara J.; Robinson, Stacie