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New Genetic Management Hub Scales Genetic Rescue for Wildlife

By June 27, 2024July 8th, 2024No Comments

Endangered Leadbeater's possum (Gymnobelideus leadbeateri), a case study of successful genetic rescue in Australia | Alamy

Many endangered species are now highly inbred, threatening long-term recovery. Researchers at Monash University have launched a Wildlife Genetic Management Hub to advance and apply genomic interventions for inbred species globally.

Climate change, habitat loss, and the over-harvesting of wildlife have led to declines in many species. As a result, many species are now highly inbred, threatening long-term recovery.

Genetic management of wildlife species is a recent approach to preventing extinction. Wildlife genetic management involves assessing the level of genetic variation within a population, intervening if needed, and monitoring outcomes. The central goals of genetic management are to maintain genetic variability and avoid inbreeding, in order to maximize the long-term viability of populations.

A key intervention in genetic management is ‘genetic rescue’ – a process that increases a population’s fitness by introducing new genetic variation via breeding with captive bred, translocated, or cloned individuals. Using proof-of-concept methods, Dr. Sasha Pavlova and Dr. Paul Sunnucks at Monash University developed five compelling case studies for genetic rescue. They used translocation and hybridization to increase genetic variation in endangered Australian species, including the button wrinklewort (Rutidosis leptorrhynchoides), feather-leaved banksia (Banksia brownii), Macquarie perch (Macquaria australasica), helmeted honeyeater (Lichenostomus melanops cassidix), and Leadbeater’s possum (Gymnobelideus leadbeateri). These examples emphasized the value of genetic rescue in long-term species recovery.

Now, these researchers are partnering with conservation stakeholders to upscale these methods and provide genetic rescue services to conservation managers around the world.

Based at the School of Biological Sciences at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, the Wildlife Genetic Management Hub works with wildlife managers to co-design genetic management solutions to help prevent the extinction of populations. Their interdisciplinary work combines expertise in genomics (DNA sequencing and analysis), evolutionary concepts, and decision-support systems for wildlife managers. Their team has worked with Australian and international wildlife management agencies to explore how genetic management can help a range of endangered plants and animals.

The Wildlife Genetic Management Hub is committed to genetic interventions that can halt wildlife decline around the world.

Learn more about the Hub

About Wild Genomes

This project was supported, in part, by our Wild Genomes program. Wild Genomes is a funding program to provide state-of-the-art genomic tools to the people who need them most: field scientists, wildlife managers, and citizens working to protect their local biodiversity. The purpose of Wild Genomes is to accelerate the adoption of genomic sequencing for applied wildlife conservation.

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