The conservation genetics juggling act: Integrating genetics and ecology, science and policy

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The field of conservation genetics, when properly implemented, is a constant juggling act integrating molecular genetics, ecology, and demography with applied aspects concerning managing declining species or implementing conservation laws and policies. This young field has grown substantially since the 1980s following the development of polymerase chain reaction and now into the genomics era. Our laboratory has 'grown up' with the field, having worked on these issues for over three decades. Our multidisciplinary approach entails understanding the behavior and ecology of species as well as the underlying processes that contribute to genetic viability. Taking this holistic approach provides a comprehensive understanding of factors that influence species persistence and evolutionary potential while considering annual challenges that occur throughout their life cycle. As a federal laboratory, we are often addressing the needs of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in their efforts to list, de-list, or recover species. Nevertheless, there remains an overall communication gap between research geneticists and biologists who are charged with implementing their results. Therefore, we outline the need for a National Center for Small Population Biology to ameliorate this problem and provide organizations charged with making status decisions firmer ground from which to make their critical decisions.




Haig, S. M., Miller, M. P., Bellinger, R., Draheim, H. M., Mercer, D. M., & Mullins, T. D. (2016). The conservation genetics juggling act: Integrating genetics and ecology, science and policy. Evolutionary Applications, 9(1), 181–195.

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