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brady-wy-tws

Brady’s talk, Hummingbird genomics, WY-TWS conf, Jackson WY

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Beth (L) poster, Great Gray Owl pop. genomics; Susan Patla (R, WGFD wildlife biologist collaborator). WY-TWS conf, Jackson, WY

melanie-wy-tws

Melanie (L) Mule Deer pop.genomics x CWD research. Adele (R; colleague ungulate ecologist). WY-TWS conf.Jackson, WY.

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Sierra talk, Bighorn sheep pop. genomics, WY-TWS, Jackson, WY, Dec 7, 2017.

Talks and poster presentations for five of our lab members a success at WY Chapter of The Wildlife Society Conference last week!


Poster presentations:

Beth Mendelsohn presented on population genomics of great gray owls, and Melanie LaCava presented on landscape genomics /population health in Wyoming Mule Deer.

Oral presentations:
Sierra M. Love Stowell presented about identifying genetic clusters and assessing genetic diversity in bighorn sheep, Brady Godwin presented about the population genomics of hummingbirds in California and Wyoming, and Holly Ernest presented tips for Wildlife Biologists for applied use of genetics to get ecological data to help with wildlife conservation and management.

WYTWS

5 of our lab members are heading to the WY Chapter of The Wildlife Society Conference in Jackson WY to present Dec 5-7, 2017– which means a lab road trip for us!

Poster presentations (http://wytwsconference.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/WY-TWS_2017-Conference-Program_Poster-Abstracts.pdf):

  • Beth Mendelsohn will be presenting on the population genomics of great gray owls (see abstract on page 9)
  • Melanie LaCava will be presenting on landscape genomics and population health in Wyoming Mule Deer (see abstract page 8).

Oral presentations (http://wytwsconference.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/WY-TWS_2017-Conference-Program_Oral-Presentation-Abstracts.pdf):

  • Sierra M. Love Stowell will be speaking about identifying genetic clusters and assessing genetic diversity in Wyoming’s bighorn sheep (see abstract on page 22)
  • Brady Godwin will be presenting about the population genomics of hummingbirds in California and Wyoming (see abstract on page 8)
  • Holly Ernest will be speaking about five practical tips for strategic use of genetics in applied wildlife conservation and management (see abstract on page 2)
phillip

Photo credit Diana Caballero Alvarado

Honoring one of Holly’s past students, the Loreto Godoy Memorial Fellowship has been awarded to Phillip Brand

Philipp Brand received the 4rd annual Loreto Godoy Memorial Fellowship for 2017-2018. Philipp is an evolutionary biologist interested in speciation and sensory evolution in insects (the most abundant wildlife on earth!). Phillipp is interested in the sensory biology, neurophysiology, chemical ecology, and olfactory memory involved in pheromone communication and the underlying molecular mechanisms through which these evolve. His main focus is the evolution of chemical communication in orchid bees, a charismatic group of insects known for their unique “perfume collecting” behavior. Male orchid bees collect scents from flowers and non-floral sources such as rotting wood or fungi to concoct a species-specific chemical mixture we call ‘perfume’. The accumulated ‘perfume blend’ is eventually released in order to attract conspecific females for mating.

He holds a Masters of Science in Biology (Genetics and Evolution) and a Bachelor of Science from Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf. He is currently a PhD student in the Santiago Ramirez Lab at the Center for Population Biology at UC Davis as a PhD candidate in the PopBio Graduate Group. Learn more about Phillipp

Holly Ernest was Loreto’s professor at UC Davis and looks forward to honoring the past student every year with the memorial fellowship.

Learn more about Phillipp: https://evolvingors.wordpress.com/
Learn more about the Loreto fellowship: https://www.facebook.com/Loreto.Godoy.Scholarship/

Mountain Lions: Quinton Martins/Audubon Canyon Ranch

Photo credit Quinton Martins/Audubon Canyon Ranch

We’re collaborating with Dr. Quinton Martins and the Audubon Canyon Ranch in California on a mountain lion telemetry project.

The ranch was recently ravaged by the fires in Northern California, and is accepting donations to help rebuild the project at: https://egret.org/acr-mountain-lion-project.

We’ll be analyzing his first 6 mountain lions to help develop a family tree that Dr. Martins will use alongside his field work and telemetry, and that we’ll use on broader regional scale population genetics studies to learn how mountain lions are doing in terms of genetic diversity and population health.

Donate to the Audubon Canyon Ranch: https://egret.org/acr-mountain-lion-project
Learn more about our mountain lion research: http://www.wildlifegenetichealth.org/projects-research/mountain-lions/

Photo credit and copyright: Robert Church, BCPhoto Photo caption: A pet domestic ferret (Mustela putorius furo)

A pet domestic ferret (Mustela putorius furo). Photo credit and copyright: Robert Church, BCPhoto

Domestic ferrets are inbred on a global scale and have dangerously low genetic diversity!

Our study, published in Evolutionary Applications, shows domestic ferrets are inbred on a global scale and have dangerously low genetic diversity. Ferret owners and veterinarians should be made aware of potential inbreeding depression and breeding programs should consider diversifying their genetic stock.

Read more:
Founder events, isolation, and inbreeding: Intercontinental genetic structure of the domestic ferret

A 100–pound male mountain lion, one of about 20 in the Santa Ana Mountains, rests in a cage in 2012. (Photo credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

A 100-pound male mountain lion, one of about 20 in about 20 in the Santa Ana Mountains, rests in a cage in 2012. (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

The gene pool of inbred pumas is enhanced by one migrant but wildlife corridors are needed!

Our study, published with the Royal Society, shows the inbred Santa Ana Puma population’s genetic diversity was enhanced by a single migrant that sired 11 offspring. But that may not be enough! A companion paper proposes a wildlife conservation network that could ensure long-term gene flow and population viability.

Read more:
Royal Society Open Science: “A single migrant enhances the genetic diversity of an inbred puma population
LOS ONE: “Multi-level, multi-scale resource selection functions and resistance surfaces for conservation planning: Pumas as a case study” P
LA Times: “A Riverside County mountain lion sired 11 kittens, but that won’t fix weak gene pool

Science Olympiad testing
Melanie grading Science Olympiad tests

Science Olympiad a success!

Beth Mendelsohn, Melanie LaCava, and Brady Godwin volunteered to create, administer and grade the ecology exam for the Wyoming State Science Olympiad Tournament (held in Casper this year). Their exam included museum skulls, microscopes, and food webs among other things for teams of middle and high school students – who participated for fun!

One sample question below… can you answer it?

What type of species interaction (competition, mutualism, commensalism, parasitism, predation) is each of the below strategies?

_________________Bees use flower nectar for food, and while collecting the nectar transport pollen from one flower to the next
_________________Algae and Fungi come together to create Lichens, fungus gets energy from the algae, and the algae get a moist protected habitat
_________________Red-breasted nuthatches excavate small cavities in dead trees for nesting
_________________Mountain pine beetles lay their eggs under the bark of pine trees. When the larvae hatch, they feed on the phloem of the tree, disrupting nutrient transport
_________________Pine martens hunt and eat squirrels

Answers, in order: Mutualism, Mutualism, Commensalism, Parasitism, Predation

 

More about Science Olympiad: https://www.soinc.org/ and http://www.caspercollege.edu/events/science-olympiad

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Erick traveled to Seattle to present genetics of threatened southern sea otter at the 10th Annual Sea Otter Conservation Workshop

Erick Gagne traveled to Seattle to present genetic research on the threatened southern California sea otter at the 10th Sea Otter Conservation Workshop. The international conference is held in the Seattle Aquarium and is the largest meeting of sea otter biologists in the world. Our findings reveal that genetic diversity is not increasing over time despite an increase in sea otter population size. In addition, we explore multiple estimators of the effective population size, which is estimate of the number of individuals in the population that are contributing genetically. Accurate estimates of effective population size are important because maintaining an effective population size of 500 is considered necessary for long term conservation and is a part of the criteria for delisting southern sea otters as a threatened species.

Read more about southern California sea otters:
http://www.wildlifegenetichealth.org/projects-research/otters/
http://www.wildlifegenetichealth.org/about-us/erick-gagne/

A sea otter using a tool to open a clam in the Elkhorn Slough, CA. Photo by Jessica Fujii.

A sea otter using a tool to open a clam in the Elkhorn Slough, CA. Photo by Jessica Fujii.

Our paper investigating tool-use by sea otters, published in Biology Letters!

Our new paper investigating tool-use by sea otters, lead by our collaborator Katherine Ralls, has been published in Biology Letters! The evolutionary and ecological roots of tool-use vary greatly across taxa. Within marine mammals, the best examples of tool-use are sea otters and Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins. In both species, tool-use is not implemented by all individuals even within a population. Genetic analyses of the bottlenose dolphins revealed that tool-use was related to a single matriline (mother to offspring lineage) and that tool-use transmission is likely cultural (where individuals learn tool-use by observing other members of their group). In sea otters, however, we found no association between relatedness or mitochondrial haplotypes with tool-use. Instead, our work suggests a predisposition of all sea otters to use tools when faced with certain ecological conditions.

News stories:
https://www.sciencenews.org/blog/science-ticker/sea-otters-use-rocks-tools-arent-related

http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-39339424

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/next/nature/sea-otters-using-tools-millions-of-years/

trout

New Project in Lab: Cutthroat Trout Genomics

Sierra Love Stowell received a contract from the United States Fish & Wildlife Service to genotype 190 greenback cutthroat trout at the Leadville National Fish Hatchery in Colorado. The genotypes will be used to calculate relatedness, which will then be used to choose parents in controlled matings. The goal is to maximize genetic diversity by mating unrelated individuals and ensure the sustainability of the broodstock in the hatchery and the success of reintroductions into the native range.

Learn more about Sierra: http://www.wildlifegenetichealth.org/about-us/sierra-love-stowell/

Grant awarded

Four members of our lab awarded new grants!

Brady Godwin (studying hummingbirds) and Beth Mendelsohn (studying Great Gray Owls) have recently been awarded the Raynes Wildlife Grant. Learn more about the grant at http://cschneebeck.com/raynes/.

Sierra Love Stowell recently received the national Wild Sheep Foundation grant to further study bighorn sheep translocation genomics. Learn more about the grant at https://www.wildsheepfoundation.org/

Erin Bentley, working on a National Science Foundation (NSF) mountain lion project to develop video games for educational outreach, recently received a grant from the NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU). Learn more about the grant at https://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=5517

Learn more about our lab members: http://wildlifegenetichealth.org/about-us/
Learn more about our lab’s research projects: http://wildlifegenetichealth.org/projects-research/ 

Science Olympiad

Beth Mendelsohn, Melanie LaCava, and Brady Godwin volunteer to be supervisors for the Science Olympiad

Beth, Melanie, and Brady are creating the ecology test for the Wyoming Science Olympiad state competition, to be held in Casper, Wyoming on March 25th. The hour-long test will be comprised of interactive, hands-on questions about basic ecology principles, terrestrial ecosystems, and human impacts on ecosystems. Students form clubs and spend months studying and preparing for a wide scope of topics, including Food Science, Microbe Mission, Optics, Robot Arm, Wind Power, Astronomy, Electric Vehicle and many more. The top team from the state competition advances to the National tournament. Participants learn the important skills of team work and group learning. There are also prestigious awards and scholarships associated with the Science Olympiad.

More about Science Olympiad: https://www.soinc.org/ and http://www.caspercollege.edu/events/science-olympiad

pronghorn

The Wildlife Society recently published an article on our pronghorn migration genomic research

Melanie LaCava, along with Holly Ernest, are studying the genetics of pronghorn populations and their movements across Wyoming. The Wildlife Society article explains: “We know that highways are definitely barriers for seasonal movements. What I’m hoping do is provide information on whether they’re also acting as a genetic barrier,” LaCava said. “There have been two [wildlife highway overpasses] built in Wyoming recently and they’re looking to build more. What I’m hoping to provide is an extra layer of information to help inform decisions like that.”

Read the article: http://wildlife.org/genetics-study-aims-to-aid-pronghorn-conservation-decisions/Learn more about our pronghorn research: http://www.wildlifegenetichealth.org/projects-research/pronghorn/

pronghorn

Melanie LaCava’s research on pronghorn populations is featured in this month’s AG News Magazine.

Melanie, along with her advisor Holly Ernest, are using next-generation genome sequencing tools and big data techniques to correlate the genetics of pronghorn populations and individuals with their movements across Wyoming. Working with the Wyoming Game & Fish Department and the Wyoming State Vet Lab, they’ve amassed over a thousand samples to establish a baseline for future genetic monitoring, to quantify genetic diversity, and to identify major barriers (like features in the landscape) to gene flow.

Read the full article: http://www.uwyo.edu/uwag/publications/agnews/agnews-16-fall.pdf
Learn more about our pronghorn research: http://www.wildlifegenetichealth.org/projects-research/pronghorn/

Erin Bentley

Video gaming for conservation science

Erin Bentley, an intern in our lab, will be helping to create video games for educational outreach on our NSF mountain lion project. Working with Dr. Kevin Crooks (Professor, Colorado State University), and Dr. Jeff Tracey (US Geological Survey Wildlife Biologist), Erin will be exploring the connection between science education and video gaming, which will help engage new groups of people to conservation and teach the public about mountain lion population health and ecology. She brings her experience working with Dr. Rachel Watson, a UW faculty member, helping students struggling with their micro-biology courses through video gaming.

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B. Godwin & M. LaCava receive INBRE grants for hummingbirds & pronghorn genomics

Two of our lab members just received new INBRE (IDeA Networks for Biomedical Research Excellence) grants to further study genomics! Brady Godwin studies hummingbird landscape genetics, population genomics and ecology; Melanie LaCava studies landscape genetics and migration genomics of pronghorn.

Learn more about:

Millie Vazquez

Millie with Northern Leopard Frog

Welcome Amelia (Millie) Vazquez, MS, to our lab as wildlife genomics technician!

We’ve hired Amelia (Millie) Vazquez to be the full-time wildlife genomics technician for our lab! Amelia holds a Masters degree in Zoology, with a graduate certificate in Interdisciplinary Toxicology, from Oklahoma State University, and has experience in wildlife fieldwork and wildlife genetics. She’ll be initially focusing on analyzing samples for our three-year bear grant study, and also working on all other projects in the lab including Mule Deer landscape genomics and disease studies.

Mule Deer Buck

Species feature: Mule Deer

Our lab is investigating Wyoming Mule Deer population genomics and chronic wasting disease susceptibility genetics, the first comprehensive statewide analysis of its type. Answering questions about how disease, genetic diversity, migration movements, and land development in Wyoming all interact to impact Mule Deer population health and numbers are more important to address than ever with their recent population declines. Providing such an analysis will allow wildlife agencies, including the Wyoming Department of Game and Fish, to better manage and conserve mule deer for the future.

View more about Mule Deer: http://www.wildlifegenetichealth.org/projects-research/deer-and-others/

loreto

Dr. Loreto Godoy, examining Anna’s hummingbirds in California, March 2011

Loreto Godoy scholarship awarded to present-day wildlife heroes

Present-day wildlife heroes receive recognition and funding through a memorial fund endowed to remember a wildlife hero, creative scientist, wildlife veterinarian, proud Chilean, and beacon of sunshine, Loreto Godoy. Read about this year’s recipient, Esther Kukielka, along with Robin and Cristin, recipients of previous years, at: https://www.facebook.com/Loreto.Godoy.Scholarship/

Melanie LaCava presenting pronghorn poster

LaCava wins Top PhD Student Poster Award

Melanie LaCava won the Top PhD Student Poster Award at The Wildlife Society national conference last week! Her poster, titled “Development of population genomic tools for pronghorn conservation and management”, covers her and Holly Ernest’s genetic research on Wyoming pronghorn and how they’re affected by landscape features (both natural and man-made).

Learn more about Melanie: http://www.wildlifegenetichealth.org/about-us/melanie-lacava/
Learn more about our pronghorn research: http://www.wildlifegenetichealth.org/projects-research/pronghorn/
Learn more about the conference: http://www.twsconference.org/

Female Mountain Lion - Photo credit Winston Vickers

Female Mountain Lion; photo by Winston Vickers

Ernest’s 20-year research featured in UW’s Reflection Magazine

Holly Ernest’s research on mountain lions over the last 20 years is currently featured in UW’s Reflection Magazine. She and her team of students and collaborators provided important new insights into the ecology, genetics, and health of mountain lion populations. Previous to these studies, some wildlife professionals assumed mountain lions were broadly interbreeding, that there would not be much structure to their populations, and that western mountain lions would have healthy levels of genetic diversity. DNA evidence has proven this is not the case in California.

Read the full article
Learn more about mountain lion research

TWS Conference

Three lab members will be presenting at The Wildlife Society Conference in Raleigh this week:

Mother and Child Black Bear

Lab receives new funding for 3-year study of black bear populations

Kyle Gustafson and Holly Ernest are studying the DNA and population of black bears, funded with a new three-year grant. Working with wildlife agencies to collect and analyze the hair samples of these bears, they study DNA mark recapture (how many times the same bears – versus new bears – are recaptured in the same location, based on DNA samples). Using this data, they can statistically determine the population of bears in a given area.  Currently, they’ll be looking at bears in the Eastern Sierra Nevada range, along with the mountain ranges around LA.

Read more:
http://www.wildlifegenetichealth.org/projects-research/bears/
http://www.wildlifegenetichealth.org/about-us/kyle-gustafson/

A wild mother Southern Sea Otter (Enhydra lutris) and her 1-day old newborn pup float in the water of a protected tide pool, in Monterey Bay, California.

California sea otter genetic research presented at Wildlife Disease Assoc. conference

Holly Ernest presented her and Erick Gagne’s research on the endangered southern California sea otter at the Wildlife Disease Association’s 2016 conference in Cornell University. Their research shows that the genetic diversity of these sea otters has stayed low and static over the last ten years.

Low genetic (DNA) diversity has adverse effects on populations, like the sea otters near Monterey Bay, limiting their ability to fight disease, climate change, predators, and more. Genetic variation within a population results in differences in how individuals can adapt and survive. This provides the variable raw material to allow populations to evolve in the face of novel threats. For example, if a population’s immune system is limited (low genetic diversity of immune system) to fighting only specific viruses, then one new disease could potentially eliminate most or all of the animals. In contrast, if individuals within the population have a variable immune system, they may be well-equipped to fight off the new disease.

In the past before the mid-1800’s fur trade era, sea otters used to inhabit almost the entire Pacific coast – from Mexico, to Alaska, the Bering Strait, down to Japan. Now fragmented, the population in California is isolated from breeding from other genetically diverse populations. California sea otters today suffer from an onslaught of disease threats and loss of their marine kelp habitat.

Read more about southern California sea otters:
http://www.wildlifegenetichealth.org/projects-research/otters/
http://www.wildlifegenetichealth.org/about-us/erick-gagne/

Melanie LaCava presenting pronghorn poster

Melanie LaCava attends pronghorn workshop in Montana, presents poster

Graduate student Melanie LaCava attended the Biennial Western States and Provinces Pronghorn Workshop in Montana last week. She presented a poster with preliminary pronghorn population genomics data and networked with pronghorn researchers and managers from across western North America.

Read more about Melanie: http://www.wildlifegenetichealth.org/about-us/melanie-lacava/Read more about pronghorn: http://www.wildlifegenetichealth.org/projects-research/pronghorn/

Snowy Owl
Beth studying Snowy Owls

Beth studied Snowy Owl nests in the arctic this summer, found one of lowest breeding years in 25 years

Beth Mendelsohn just returned from Barrow, Alaska, the most northern portion of Alaska, looking for Snowy Owl nests along the Arctic Ocean. She assisted in research that showed that the Snowy Owls in this arctic region had one of the lowest breeding years in 25 years. Read more about Snowy Owls in the arctic at the Owl Research Institute, which funded her summer’s work. Beth, a new Masters student in the Ernest lab, will be studying the genetic population of Great Grey Owls in the Rocky Mountains.

Read more:
http://www.owlinstitute.org/
http://www.wildlifegenetichealth.org/projects-research/great-gray-owls/
http://www.wildlifegenetichealth.org/about-us/beth-mendelsohn/

Kitten siblings P-46 and P-47 are seen at their den in the western Santa Monica Mountains in this photo provided by the National Park Service. National Park Service

Paper w/ Ernest lab genetic data shows small carnivore population likely to go extinct near major city

A new paper out by UCLA postdoc John Benson, Holly Ernest, and coauthors has recently been published, showing that demographic, genetic and landscape interactions increase extinction probability in a small population of large carnivores in a major metropolitan area. The Ernest lab provided the genetic data. This new research has been covered in the LA times and more.

Read more:

http://www.wildlifegenetichealth.org/publications/
http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-mountain-lions-threat-20160830-snap-story.html
http://www.ocregister.com/articles/lions-727639-riley-mountain.html
http://www.scpr.org/news/2016/08/30/64132/will-the-mountain-lions-of-the-santa-monica-mounta/
http://phys.org/news/2016-08-mountain-lions-extinct-santa-monica.html

Hummingbird migration

We’ve followed Penny, a broad-tailed hummingbird, the last two summers

We’ve banded and followed Penny, a broad-tailed hummingbird, over the last two summers in Wyoming – and she migrated to southern Mexico in the interim! Holly Ernest and Brady Godwin banded Penny as a young hummingbird in late August last year near Fox Park, Wyoming. A year later, they were able to study her again in June, in the same location, where she’s likely returned to nest and reproduce. Hummingbirds like Penny make an incredible 4000 mile round-trip migration through a gauntlet of obstacles – dogs and cats (some of their main predators), glass windows on high-rise buildings, pesticides, cars, and exhaustion – eventually reaching southern Mexico, in the area of Oaxaca and surrounding Mexican states. They pack up to 1.8 grams of fat under their chins (gaining ~50% of their normal body weight) to make the 2-month journey. Both Penny’s winter and summer habitat are high elevations with open woodland and flowering shrubs – and sometimes, when returning to Wyoming in the late Spring, even sees snow!

Read more about hummingbirds and our research:
http://www.wildlifegenetichealth.org/projects-research/hummingbirds/
http://www.wildlifegenetichealth.org/about-us/braden-godwin/

Kyle Gustafson

Lab member Kyle Gustafson attends spatially-explicit capture-recapture workshop

A fundamental question in wildlife conservation is “What is the population size?” Although counting individuals seems simple, estimating population size is extremely complex. Wildlife populations that we study are not limited to a single location, and a better question might be “What is the population density and how does it change among locations?” To learn the techniques required to answer this question, Dr. Kyle Gustafson attended a Spatially-explicit capture–recapture modeling workshop at the University of Georgia, led by Andy Royle and Richard Chandler.

Read more about our research on mountain lion populations and genetics.

Wildlife Genomics

Using samples from wildlife to extract and analyze DNA

We are using tissue, blood, horn, hair, and even fecal samples from wildlife populations to extract DNA and analyze genetic information to learn about population history, health, and dynamics. We’re then sharing that information with stakeholders in wildlife conservation, from citizens to state and federal wildlife agencies, so that they can make informed decisions about wildlife management.

Read more about wildlife genomics at:
http://www.wildlifegenetichealth.org/projects-research/wildlife-genomics/
http://www.wildlifegenetichealth.org/projects-research/bighorn-sheep/
http://www.wildlifegenetichealth.org/about-us/sierra-love-stowell/

disease-ecology

Preventing disease outbreaks for conservation and human health

Our lab is using genomic (DNA) approaches in mountain lions and bighorn sheep to address important questions in disease ecology. Disease occurrence and the severity of disease outbreaks are increasing in wildlife; preventing these outbreaks is becoming recognized as an important component of wildlife conservation and human health.

Read more about disease ecology at:
http://www.wildlifegenetichealth.org/projects-research/wildlife-disease-ecology/
http://www.wildlifegenetichealth.org/about-us/erick-gagne/
http://www.wildlifegenetichealth.org/projects-research/mountain-lions/

Wildlife Genetic Health Lab

Now Hiring a Lab Technician!

We have an open technician position to assist in laboratory research in wildlife population genetics, genomics and disease ecology at the University of Wyoming (UW) in Laramie. Assisting in research involves use of genomic and genetic DNA analysis and disease diagnostic data to examine population health, genetic diversity, and ecology of wildlife species. The position is primarily laboratory based and involves many and varied tasks.  View more >

Applications will be reviewed immediately and desired start date is as soon as possible starting Sept 1, 2016. Full job listing is at UWyo job site, http://www.uwyo.edu/hr/hremployment/showjob.asp?jobid=13571

We use population genomics to investigate genetic differences among individuals in a population that have different seasonal migration strategies (i.e., migrants and non-migrants). Previous research has shown genetic segregation between migrants and non-migrants in the Yellowstone pronghorn population (Barnowe-Meyer et al. 2013).

Population genomics to study ungulate migrations

Our lab is using population genomics to study Wyoming ungulate migrations. After determining whether individual animals are migratory or non-migratory using GPS tracking data, we can investigate genetic differences between these two groups. To learn more about our pronghorn migration genomics project, see our pronghorn research page: http://www.wildlifegenetichealth.org/projects-research/pronghorn/

Learn more about population genomics: http://www.wildlifegenetichealth.org/migration-genomics/

Landscape Genetics

Mountain lion landscape genetics research with major focus in California:

As mountain lion landscape geneticists we are using genetics to understand how the landscape affects the abundances and distributions of mountain lion populations across broad spatial areas, with major focus on California. Our research has important management implications for mountain lion conservation as well as implications for public safety.

Read more about landscape genetics: http://www.wildlifegenetichealth.org/projects-research/wildlife-genomics-and-landscape-genetics/
Read more about our mountain lion research: http://www.wildlifegenetichealth.org/projects-research/mountain-lions/
Read more about Kyle: http://www.wildlifegenetichealth.org/about-us/kyle-gustafson/

owl-news-caption

Lab to begin studying conservation genetics & population health of great gray owls

Beth Mendelsohn will join our lab in the Fall as a masters-level student to begin studying the conservation genetics and population health of the Great Gray Owl in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

Read more about great grey owls: http://www.wildlifegenetichealth.org/projects-research/great-gray-owls/

Read more about Beth: http://www.wildlifegenetichealth.org/about-us/beth-mendelsohn/

brady-news2

Lab member is “Habitat Hero”: Brady Godwin guest blogs for Rockies Audubon about hummingbirds, looks for feeders to band at

Brady Godwin, PhD student in our lab, guest blogs for Rockies Audubon about hummingbird populations and genetics, and looks for volunteers to allow banding at feeders. Once we begin to answer some basic questions about hummingbird populations, we will really begin to know what’s going on with those wonderful little birds hovering by your windows!

Read more at: http://www.wildlifegenetichealth.org/projects-research/hummingbirds/

Read the article at: http://rockies.audubon.org/get-involved/hummingbird-science

pig-news

STUDYING ECOLOGY OF FERAL PIG POPULATIONS & HOW THEY INTERACT

Working with the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) wildlife genetics unit Dr.Toni Piaggio and Dr. Michael Tabac, our lab is studying the ecology of feral pig populations in California.  Feral pigs, also called wild boars, or feral hogs, are very environmentally destructive, basically rototilling up whole hillsides and destroying native grasses and other plants.  Our study specifically uses population genetic and ecological data to determine breeding structures of pigs, how populations of pigs are grouped across the landscape, and what important social factors are associated with human-assisted movement of feral pigs. This information will be used to better understand the lifestyle of these unique and invasive animals as well as how to manage feral pig populations and the diseases they can spread to livestock, wildlife, and people.

Read more at: http://www.wildlifegenetichealth.org/projects-research/feral-pigs/

erin-news

Erin labeling a tube of bighorn sheep DNA

Erin Bentley, Wildlife Genomics Intern

Wildlife genomics intern Erin Bentley is working on state-wide Wyoming bighorn sheep and mule deer population genomics with postdocs Erick Gagne and Sierra Love Stowell. This work will contribute to improved conservation and management measures for these very important species.

Learn about Erin
View our mule deer research

melanie-idaho-news

Melanie LaCava and Holly Ernest invited to University of Idaho

PhD student Melanie LaCava and Holly Ernest were recently invited to speak at the University of Idaho. They covered the genomics and diseases of pronghorn and bighorn sheep, and will start to collaborate with researchers there to better study these animals.

Read more about pronghorn
Read more about bighorn sheep

otter-news

Sea otter primer note has been published in Conservation Genetic Resources

Lydia Lam, former veterinary student, Erick Gagne, post-doc, and Holly Ernest have developed 24 novel polymorphic microsatellite loci for the Southern sea otter, Enhydra lutris nereis. The work has been published in this month’s issue of Conservation Genetic Resources doi:10. 1007/ s12686-016-0522-2

Brady gently removing hummingbird from trap for health exam

Brady gently removing hummingbird from trap for health exam

Brady Godwin, PhD student, studies hummingbird health across Wyoming and Colorado:

  • Brady recently received a Kelly Ornithology grant to further study the health of hummingbirds in Wyoming and Colorado, specifically looking at population genomics and heavy metal exposure of this sentinel species.
  • The Laramie Boomerang recently featured Brady & Holly, covering how they sample, band, and find locations in Wyoming and Colorado to better understand hummingbird health.

More at: http://www.wildlifegenetichealth.org/projects-research/hummingbirds/
Read the full Boomerang article at: http://www.laramieboomerang.com/news/scientists-studying-hummingbird-health/article_1f8867f8-fdea-11e5-ba80-833dd032603d.html

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Educational Outreach with doctoral researcher Melanie LaCava

Doctoral researcher Melanie LaCava taught over 80 Laramie High School Biology students in Kim Burkhart’s classroom about pronghorn ecology and genetics, and walked them through an adaptations activity, exploring how they’ve evolved to escape/avoid predators. Download the educational resources for this lesson.

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Lab welcomes two new post-doc researchers focusing on:

  • Sierra: Next generation genome sequencing tools to assess genomic diversity of Wyoming bighorn sheep
  • Kyle: Mountain lion population genomics, landscape genetics, and molecular mark recapture

More at: http://www.wildlifegenetichealth.org/about-us/

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LAB MEMBER ERICK GAGNE ATTENDS CALIFORNIA SEA OTTER RESEARCH MEETING

Together with the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Marine Wildlife Veterinary Care & Research Center we are working to develop a large and informative suite of genetic markers to help track the transmission of disease through the otter populations of California. Learn more

Bighorn Sheep

COMPREHENSIVE STATE-WIDE GENETIC ASSESSMENT OF WYOMING’S BIGHORN SHEEP HERDS

Our lab is currently generating data for a comprehensive state-wide genetic assessment of Wyoming’s bighorn sheep herds. These data and findings will form a foundation with which wildlife agencies, including Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD), can monitor the genetic health of Wyoming’s herds into the future. The research will also assist and partner with studies to evaluate why certain bighorn sheep herds have severe disease problems and others do not.  Also included in our analyses will be genetic comparisons with our Desert Bighorn Sheep genetics data. Learn more

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Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Disease in mountain lions project

We are busy extracting and analyzing DNA for genomic analysis of southern California mountain lions. This work is part of a National Science Foundation funded Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Disease project with Colorado State University. The aims of the project are to combine host animal and viral genomic information to determine disease spread among different mountain lion populations across the United States. The findings of this work will inform management of mountain lions to protect against outbreaks of infectious diseases. Learn more

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New Disease Ecology Course Spring 2016, taught at University of Wyoming by Holly Ernest.

This course will help students build knowledge, critical thinking skills, and tools for applying the interdisciplinary science of Disease Ecology in:

  • How interactions among species, ecosystems, human systems, and abiotic components of the environment affect patterns and processes of disease,
  • Considerations for coevolution of hosts and pathogens, conservation biology, models used to understand disease dynamics,
  • Approaches to manage and control disease in animals, plants, and humans

Course #: PATB 4240 (undergraduate) co-listed with PATB 5240 (Graduate Students)
Day and Time: Tuesdays and Thursdays 2:45-4pm
More at: wildlifegenetichealth.org/teaching/disease-ecology-course/

Wildlife Genetic Health Lab

Our lab is now hiring! We’re looking to fill two postdoctoral research positions:

Sep 25, 2015: 

POSTDOCTORAL RESEARCHER IN WILDLIFE POPULATION GENOMICS / LAB MANAGER
A post-doctoral research position (Postdoc; position #4712”) is available to work on wildlife population genomics and serve as laboratory manager at the University of Wyoming (UW) in Laramie. The position will be primarily lab-based within the Ernest Wildlife Genomics and Disease Ecology Laboratory in the Department of Veterinary Sciences which has affiliations with the UW Program in Ecology and the University of California, Davis Wildlife Health Center. Research will use genomic (next gen sequencing) and genetic (microsatellite) to examine landscape-level genetic diversity, population structure, and phylogeography of wildlife species in the Rocky Mountain West and California. Species of focus will mainly involve bighorn sheep, and also contribute to work on pronghorn, mountain lion, hummingbird, sea otter and other species. Research work may also involve wildlife disease ecology.

Details and application information: Postdoc Wildlife Genomics Lab Mngr_Position 4712

POSTDOCTORAL RESEARCHER IN WILDLIFE LANDSCAPE GENETICS
A post-doctoral research position (Postdoc; position #4740”) is available to work on wildlife landscape genetics and population genetics at the University of Wyoming (UW) in Laramie. The position will be primarily lab-based within the Ernest Wildlife Genomics and Disease Ecology Laboratory in the Department of Veterinary Sciences which has affiliations with the UW Program in Ecology and the University of California, Davis Wildlife Health Center. Research will use genetic (microsatellite) and genomic (next gen sequencing) DNA data (including non/less-invasive sampling, such as fecal samples), GIS analysis, and quantitative analytic analysis using spatially explicit capture–recapture and other models, and software such as MARK, SECR, CAPWIRE, and others to examine population ecology, relatedness, and estimate population sizes of wildlife species in the Rocky Mountain West and California. Species of focus will mainly involve mountain lions, and also contribute to work on pronghorn, bighorn sheep, hummingbirds and other species.

Details and application information: Postdoc Wildlife Landscape Genetics Position 4740

University of Wyoming combines major-university benefits and small-school advantages, offering 200 programs of study, an outstanding faculty, and world-class research and teaching facilities, all set against the backdrop of Wyoming’s beautiful landscapes. The main campus is in Laramie, a community of approximately 31,000 sandwiched between the Medicine Bow and Laramie mountain ranges two hours north of Denver.
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pronghorn project pushes forward

Sep 8, 2015: Melanie LaCava, Holly Ernest, and team at University of Wyoming are examining the genomic health of pronghorn herds throughout the state of Wyoming. Migration Genomics: we use landscape genetics and genomic tools to study these unique migratory ungulates as well as migratory birds. This work is vitally important for this emblematic Sage Brush species, with most of the world’s population living in Wyoming and existing as the only remaining member of its taxonomic family.  Read more

Hummingbird Health Program

UW Hummingbird health program takes flight in Wyoming and Colorado

Sep 2, 2015: The Wyoming Game and Fish Department has been working with UW’s Dr. Holly Ernest and PhD student Braden Godwin on the Hummingbird Health Project this summer. Read the full article by Mark Gocke here and feature article in Wyoming Wildlife Magazine here.

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Welcome to the lab

Aug 10, 2015: Braden Godwin (PhD student, hummingbird project), Erick Gagne (Postdoctoral Researcher, mountain lion project), Melanie Lacava (PhD student, pronghorn project), and Giulia Vernati (managing our lab, bighorn sheep project, and assisting with all lab projects) – joining Holly Ernest (DVM, PhD, Professor) in support of our mission to enhance wildlife conservation, population health, & management.

Mountain Lion

species of the week: mountain lions

July 23, 2015: Our lab is focusing on wild ruminants, carnivores, & birds, with special attention currently on mountain lions, bighorn sheep, pronghorn, and hummingbirds. Species of the week to check out: mountain lions

Wildlife Genetic Health website

lab officially up and running

July 8, 2015: Our lab is officially up and running!  We’re enhancing wildlife conservation, population health, & management in the disciplines of genomics, landscape genetics, and disease ecology. Explore our website to learn more.