Friday, February 22, 2013

Lab meeting on genetic diversity and climate change: What can we expect?

Anthropogenic climate change represents one of the biggest challenges and opportunities for ecologists and evolutionary biologists.

Oh wait. 

I mean modern genomics represents one the greatest challenges and opportunities for ecologists and evolutionary biologists. 

For those of us who thrive on challenges and opportunities, why not combine the two? As we don't know what future climate change will bring, and the possibilities for molecular ecology are constantly expanding, making predictions in this field can be difficult-- but also exciting. To provide some food for thought, I suggest that we read a recent invited review in Molecular Ecology at this week's lab meeting: 

Genetic diversity provides the basic substrate for evolution, yet few studies assess the impacts of global climate change (GCC) on intraspecific genetic variation. In this review, we highlight the importance of incorporating neutral and non-neutral genetic diversity when assessing the impacts of GCC, for example, in studies that aim to predict the future distribution and fate of a species or ecological community. Specifically, we address the following questions: Why study the effects of GCC on intraspecific genetic diversity? How does GCC affect genetic diversity? How is the effect of GCC on genetic diversity currently studied? Where is potential for future research? For each of these questions, we provide a general background and highlight case studies across the animal, plant and microbial kingdoms. We further discuss how cryptic diversity can affect GCC assessments, how genetic diversity can be integrated into studies that aim to predict species' responses on GCC and how conservation efforts related to GCC can incorporate and profit from inclusion of genetic diversity assessments. We argue that studying the fate of intraspecifc genetic diversity is an indispensable and logical venture if we are to fully understand the consequences of GCC on biodiversity on all levels.

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Also at this weeks' lab meeting, our newly arrived post-doc, Rachael Dudaniec, will give a short presentation on the topic of landscape genetics with examples from her recent work on mammals in Queensland, Australia (University of Queensland). Landscape genetics links landscape ecology and molecular genetic information to quantify the influence of landscape features on species’ dispersal. Landscape genetic patterns are sensitive to the focal species, the study location, and the time at which genetic information and landscape data were sampled.
Therefore, studies should be applied at spatial and temporal resolutions that are relevant for the focal species’ biology, while ideally providing meaningful outcomes for conservation managers. In this short talk, Rachael will outline the basics of landscape genetics and present recent analyses of landscape genetic connectivity in koalas and other small mammals in Australia that face threats from habitat fragmentation and urbanisation.

At Lund University, Rachael will work on adaptive landscape genomics and connectivity in Ischnura damselflies in relation to land use and climate change. 

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As usual, we meet at 10:30 on Tuesday (February 26) in Argumentet, and I will provide fika. Cheers, and see you there! -Lesley

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