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Preserving genetic diversity gives wild populations their best chance

Sarah Fitzpatrick, Assistant Professor in the Department of Integrative Biology, the Kellogg Biological Station, and EEB, was part of team that published a new paper showing that genetic variation is crucial to a population’s short- and long-term viability. The paper examined decades of theoretical and empirical evidence and was published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science.

The genomics revolution has made it possible to quickly and cheaply sequence entire genomes. These rapidly advancing technologies have expanded our understanding of wild populations like salmon and their interactions with the environment.

Sarah Fitzpatrick
Sarah Fitzpatrick

For example, researchers can look at genetic traits that influence a particular Pacific salmon population’s biodiversity, disease resistance, migration timing, and other adaptations. Such a deeper understanding of salmon genetics gives managers more information to help protect and recover them.

Some recent studies have pointed to wildlife populations such as musk ox, cheetahs, and island foxes that have low genetic variation and yet persist despite high levels of inbreeding. This has led some to conclude that genetic variation and inbreeding don’t matter as much as previously thought.

Read more at NOAA.