REU Project 16—Landscape genetics using microsatellite DNA markers—Dr. Jarrett Johnson, Biology Department
The field of landscape genetics attempts to integrate the distribution of genetic variation with landscape features and spatial patterns of gene flow. This is an important goal. As landscapes become increasing fragmented from urbanization and land-use practices, populations are isolated and suffer an increased risk of stochastic extinction. With an understanding of how population structure is influenced by natural landscape characteristics we can better understand how to responsibly integrate human activities into natural systems and minimize harmful negative effects. Landscape genetic data also provide evolutionary biologists the opportunity to evaluate the scale of local adaptation and understand the spread of genetic material. Pond-breeding amphibians (e.g., Ambystoma, Bufo, Rana) are particularly appropriate for landscape genetic studies because they breed in discrete congregations centered on readily discernable aquatic breeding habitat. This study compares genetic structure across multiple species occupying the same landscape, with a goal of providing a better understanding of how land-use may affect amphibian species and communities.