Hawai'i conservation alliance

2008 Best Student Oral Presentation

From molecules to management: Conservation genetics for the non geneticist using Laysan Albatross as a model

Lindsay Young
University of Hawaii, Honolulu, Hawaii, United States

The use of genetics is an increasingly popular tool in managing populations of declining species. Molecular markers can supply conservation biologists and resource managers with a wealth of information that can be used to make informed management decisions such as: effective population size, the amount of migration between breeding colonies, the source of migrants for newly formed colonies and the colony of origin for animals killed as bycatch in fisheries or in the illegal wildlife trade. However, the methods used and how to correctly interpret them are often lost in translation from researcher to manager. This talk will cover current types of molecular data in a simplified format, and how they can be applied to a variety of species using Laysan Albatross (Phoebastria immutabilis) as an example. Laysan Albatross (Phoebastria immutabilis) are large, pelagic seabirds that once bred on oceanic islands spanning the sub tropical North Pacific. They are characterized by their high dispersal ability, low reproductive output and high natal philopatry. Feather hunting, egg collecting and other anthropogenic disturbances over the last 200 years extirpated most breeding colonies leaving only those located in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. However, in the 1970’s Laysan Albatross began re-colonizing sites in Japan, the main Hawaiian Islands and off of Mexico. Genetic results indicate that there is population separation between colonies and that multiple colonies are supplying recruits for these ‘new’ colonies across the Pacific. These results can be used to assist in prioritization of conservation actions on a colony by colony basis.