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Informing Conservation Management Using Genetic Approaches: Greater Sage-Grouse and Galápagos Short-Eared Owls as Case Studies

Description: Small isolated populations are of particular conservation interest due to their increased extinction risk. This dissertation investigates two small wild bird populations using genetic approaches to inform their conservation. Specifically, one case study investigated a Greater Sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) population located in northwest Wyoming near Jackson Hole and Grand Teton National Park. Microsatellite data showed that the Jackson sage-grouse population possessed significantly reduced levels of neutral genetic diversity and was isolated from other Wyoming populations. Analysis with single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and microsatellite data provided further evidence that the population's timing of isolation was relatively recent and most likely due to recent anthropogenic habitat changes. Conservation recommendations include maintaining or increasing the population's current size and reestablishing gene flow with the nearest large population. The second case study investigated the genetic distinctiveness of the Floreana island population of the Galápagos Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus galapagoensis). Mitochondrial DNA sequence data did not detect differences across nine island populations, yet microsatellite and morphometric data indicated that limited gene flow existed with the population and surrounding island populations, which appeared asymmetric in direction from Floreana to Santa Cruz with no indication of gene flow into Floreana. These results have important conservation implications and recommend that the Floreana Short-eared Owl population be held in captivity during the rodenticide application planned for an ecosystem restoration project in 2018. The population is less likely to receive immigrants from surrounding island populations if negatively effected by feeding on poisoned rodents.
Date: May 2016
Creator: Schulwitz, Sarah E.
Partner: UNT Libraries