For over two decades, genetic studies have been used to assist in the conservation and management of both Greater Sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) and Gunnison Sage-grouse (C. minimus), addressing a wide variety of topics including taxonomy, parentage, population connectivity, and demography. The field of conservation genetics has been transformed by dramatic improvements in sequencing technology, facilitating genomic studies in many wildlife species. The quality and amount of data generated by genomic methods vastly exceed that of traditional genetic studies, allowing for increased precision in estimating genetic parameters of interest. Perhaps more importantly, genomic methods can provide insight into non-neutral evolution such as adaptive divergence. Here we recount the shift from genetic to genomic methods using two wildlife species of substantial conservation interest, focusing on the improved capabilities and advantages of genomic methods. For instance, reassessment of divergence in sage-grouse using genomic methods confirmed strong differentiation between the two species and revealed that a small population in the state of Washington was more genetically distinct than previously recognized. Further, new genomic resources and approaches have been used to identify a family of genes linked to local dietary adaptation suggesting that sage-grouse may possess digestive and metabolic adaptations that mitigate the effects of consuming plant secondary metabolites like those found in sagebrush. Genetic variation among populations in these gene regions is thought to be involved with local dietary adaptations, and therefore maintaining the tie between sage-grouse and the chemistry of local sagebrush may be an important management consideration. We posit that the integration of newly developed genomic resources combined with the vast wealth of ecological and behavioral data for sage-grouse has the potential to shed light on mechanistic relationships that ultimately are vital to the conservation and management of these species.
Oyler-McCance, S. J., Oh, K. P., Zimmerman, S. J., & Aldridge, C. L. (2020). The Transformative Impact of Genomics on Sage-Grouse Conservation and Management (pp. 523–546). https://doi.org/10.1007/13836_2019_65