Canada Research Chair in Molecular Ecology and Landscape Genetics
Tier 2 - 2012-04-01
Natural Sciences and Engineering
519-661-2111, ext./poste 80471
Understanding how changes to the physical landscape and habitats affect the genetic diversity of animal populations.
This research will increase understanding of the conservation of biological diversity, and minimize the impact that human interventions have on wildlife.
The secret cost of shrinking habitats
We have so many creature comforts that it's hard to imagine life without them. From the clothes we wear to the tools we use, we are so accustomed to adapting by inventing that we often forget the animal world operates differently. Animals that face big changes cannot simply invent something new. Their only "tool" is their genetic code. If these genetic codes are diverse, they can adapt. But if they lack diversity, it can mean trouble for those animals, and perhaps for the entire species.
Dr. Nusha Keyghobadi, Canada Research Chair in Molecular Ecology and Landscape Genetics, is examining how changes to habitats can erode genetic diversity.
When we pass a clear-cut forest, we see obvious effects of human intervention on the wild. What we often do not realize is that these visible changes lead to even bigger long-term changes. Shrinking habitats push animals into smaller and more isolated zones, potentially leading to the loss of genetic diversity. If the climate warms, animals may no longer be equipped to adapt. The habitat loss will have left them with a too limited genetic pool.
Keyghobadi aims to understand the nature and scope of these genetic changes. She is using butterflies, mosquitoes and other insects to identify the key habitat factors that contribute to genetic diversity in animal populations.
Keyghobadi's research will help to minimize the effects of our hunger for land, and to identify best practices to maintain genetic diversity in animal populations, before they go the way of the dodo.