Webinar Review: The role of genomics for biodiversity conservation in a changing climate

Our trainees review webinars in their given fields and share abstracts to help colleagues outside their discipline make an informed choice about watching them. As our program bridges diverse disciplines, these abstracts are beneficial for our own group in helping one another gain key knowledge in each other’s fields. We are happy to share these here for anyone else who may find them helpful.

The role of genomics for biodiversity conservation in a changing climate

21 September, 2022

Sally Aitken, Aaron Comeault, Orly Razgour

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Miles NorsworthyAnalysis by Miles Norsworthy:

Sally Aitken (Climate adaptations in conifer trees): Trees have climate change challenges unique to them due to their long life and, therefore, a greater degree of climate change within a generation. Using SNP arrays, Aitken’s team searched for traits related to heartiness to different temperature ranges. These traits were identified in lab-grown conifers while matching them to their regions with those lab-grown trees growing well in cold temperatures matching those found in colder climates in the American North West.

Aaron Comeault (invasive or migratory flies in cold weather): Like Dr. Aitken, Dr. Comeault is working on the effects of warming temperatures but using the fruit fly as a model. More specifically, he is using the fruit fly in the research of invasive species to novel environments and studying their adaptability compared to the native species. This is done by having multiple pairs of different populations of flies mate and then counting the number of flies that are hatched at different temperatures.

Surprisingly, flies from more northern regions in North America were not better or worse adapted to colder temperatures. Both native and invasive fly species were similarly adapted to different temperature ranges. This was also found when testing outside of the lab. It appears that cold kills all the flies just the same, which indicates that flies colonize northern regions of North America every year. There are not northern or southern flies, but instead southern flies and flies that have migrated north.

Orly Razgour (Better modeling for the effects of climate change on bats): Dr. Razgour studies bat populations and their genomic composition vs. their adaptability to cold and wet environments vs. hot and dry environments. Her team also includes various geographic obstacles that limit gene flow when determining resistance to climate changes. Because of this additional approach, her team has projected the isolation of populations of bats in future changing conditions. Overall, and optimistically, her approach has shown that simpler models may overestimate vulnerability of populations to climate change.