Conservation Genetics

Conservation Genetics

We are involved in a variety of projects focused on endangered species. We use DNA based approaches and evolutionary genetic principles and methods to gain insights into the evolutionary history of these species, and current and past population dynamics. By combining genetic analysis on extant and extinct taxa and integrating them with morphological and environmental data, we provide the Organizations in charge of preserving these taxa with empirically based information to develop targeted conservation strategies. 

For the past 20 years we have been involved in a long-term project focusing on giant Galapagos tortoises, an iconic complex of 15 species endemic from the Galapagos Islands.  These tortoises, which inspired Charles Darwins theory of evolution by natural selection, include a complex of morphologically and genetically distinct species. They once thrived on the islands, but now are either greatly... Read more
Three land snails, Poecilozonites bermudensis, P. circumfirmatus, and P reinianus were endemic to the island of Bermuda.  P. reinianus became extinct in the early 20th century and the other two were common through the 1970s, but have declined precipitously since (largely due to introduced carnivorous snails).   P. bermudensis was thought to be completely extinct until a few years ago when a ... Read more
Some evolutionary genetic models predict that small populations are under continuous threat from accumulating deleterious mutations in their genomes, while other models suggest small populations can evolve to be robust to these effects. To date, there is almost no empirical evidence that describes the impact of long-term population size on genome evolution.  In order to explore this fundamental... Read more
Marine iguanas (Amblyrhynchus cristatus) are some of the most of remarkable Galápagos organisms. They are the only lizards in the world that have adapted to the marine environment, as they  exclusively feed on algae in the tidal and subtidal zone. Being active swimmers and divers, these large and mobile animals have colonized all major and minor islands of the archipelago. All the populations are... Read more
We were involved with several research projects aimed at understanding the evolutionary relationships of tortoises from the Indian Ocean, including extant and extinct species. Our work focused on endangered Madagascar tortoises and the Giant Aldabra tortoise. Work was completed by Claudio Ciofi with University of Florence, Italy, Oliver Balmer with Swiss, Tropical and Public Health Institute and ... Read more
The Amur Tiger, Panthera tigris altaica, is a rare subspecies of tiger, also known as the Siberian, Korean, Manchurian, or North China Tiger, and is critically endangered. An initial survey of mtDNA levels of genetic diversity in the only wild population of this species was conducted. This was followed by a a screen of microsatellite variation and the development of a molecular test to identify... Read more
The Galápagos Islands present an extraordinary opportunity to examine patterns of migration and diversification of organisms. The geology of the islands is well understood and allows the timing and order of species colonization patterns to be inferred. In addition, islands differ in many ways, including size, habitat, and community composition, and this provides a backdrop for examining how... Read more
The project goals were to produce a phylogeny of the toad genus Atelopus and determine the genetic constitution of the Costa Rican Pacific coastal population of Atelopus varius, the Harlequin Toad, which was declared extinct in 1996 and rediscovered in 2003. Since its rediscovery, only 31 individuals have been documented, but through fieldwork by Gideon Bradburd, former Yale Undergrad, two... Read more
We have concluded a molecular assay on blood and tissue samples of the saltwater crocodile, Crocodylus porosus, indigenous to the Republic of Palau. The objectives of this study were to determine: 1) if the Palauan crocodile population is composed of one or more separate species, 2) if the population reflects the genetic influence of crocodilian species other than Crocodylus porosus, which may,... Read more
The Komodo dragon is an endangered monitor lizard endemic to five Indonesian islands: Komodo, Rinca, Gili Motang, Nusa Kode (part of Komodo National Park) and Flores. Illegal hunting of prey species and habitat encroachment are main threats to the species, which now counts less than 3,000 individuals. Conservation initiatives for the Komodo dragon are a priority for the Indonesian Department of... Read more

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