HOW IS CONSERVATION GENETICS DONE?
Conservation scientists use DNA evidence from an organism to make recommendations about how the organism should be managed. As in any scientific field, conservation scientists use a defined approach to their work, described below:
Identification, Inventory and Analysis
1. Define populations and areas of interest. Because there are so many species of organisms, endangered or threatened species usually take priority.
2. Observe the population. What are the known forms of the species? What are the morphological features used to classify the different species? What are known or suspected relatives of the species?
3. Form hypotheses about relationships between populations and/or species and test these hypotheses by examining genetic characteristics of the organisms (DNA or protein evidence).
4.Once the scientist has collected this information, mathematical models are used to analyze the data. The scientist determines how much diversity exists in separate populations of the same organism and the rate at which the exchange of genetic information (gene flow) is occurring between populations.
Interpretation and Management
Scientists and managers work together to decide whether the organism is endangered. To begin to develop a management strategy, the habitat of the organism is investigated.
1. The degree of adaptability of the organism to various temperatures, soils, and water conditions is examined.
2. Important factors that play roles in preserving genetic diversity, such as the identity and characteristics of plant pollinators, are examined. The health and welfare of pollinating species may be critical to the survival of endangered plant species.
3. Threats to the integrity of the habitat of the species due to human, climatic, or other factors are studied.