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The mission of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) at the Fort Collins Science Center Molecular Ecology Laboratory is to use the tools and concepts of molecular genetics to address a variety of complex management questions and conservation issues facing the management of the Nation's fish and wildlife resources.
Gunnison Sage-grouse (courtesy of Gerrit Vyn)
Together with our partners, we design and implement studies to document genetic diversity and the distribution of genetic variation among individuals, populations, and species. Information from these studies is used to support wildlife-management planning and conservation actions. Current and past studies have provided information to assess taxonomic boundaries, inform listing decisions made under the Endangered Species Act, identify unique or genetically depauperate populations, estimate population size or survival rates, develop management or recovery plans, breed wildlife in captivity, relocate wildlife from one location to another, and assess the effects of environmental change.
DNA sequence
Applying the Science of Molecular Genetics to the Issues of Biological Conservation

The use of molecular genetics has become increasingly important in the fields of wildlife biology, conservation biology, restoration ecology, and ecosystem science. Genetic diversity—the amount of genetic variability within a species—is an important aspect of biological diversity and plays an essential role in the conservation of species and ecosystem diversity. At the species level, conservation of genetic variability is important to the overall health of populations because such variation can represent adaptive responses to different types of environments present within a species' range. This variation may play an important role in surviving novel diseases and adapting to environmental changes associated with anthropogenic (influenced by humans) stressors, such as climate change or habitat loss. Trumpeter Swans (courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Donna Dewhurst) Furthermore, because different species coexist in communities, the loss of genetic diversity in one species can affect the structure and composition of the community of species within an ecosystem, which in turn may have a cascading effect on ecosystem health, integrity, and sustainability.

Indiana Bats (courtesy of Al Hicks)
Midget Faded Rattlesnake (courtesy of Josh Parker)
Mountain Lion (courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Larry Moats)

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