USFWS
Genetic Monitoring for Managers
Alaska

 

Is GEM Right for Me?

Our understanding of the natural world has been dramatically expanded by the field of molecular biology. Yet, modern breakthroughs in technology, the hype of this technology in popular culture, and the remarkable applications of new tools for answering age-old questions have lead to some confusion about the realistic abilities of molecular genetic techniques in the context of wildlife research. While it is true that noninvasive genetic sampling, coupled with molecular biology tools, has proven to be very effective at answering important management, evolutionary, and ecological questions, these tools are not a panacea. Although molecular geneticists can currently identify individuals, sex, and sometimes population membership, they cannot provide information on an individual's age or life-stage (i.e., young-of-the year, juvenile, adult) from a noninvasively collected samples (although see Nakagawa et al. 2004 for future possibilities).

This page is intended to guide managers through addressing their options relative to the strengths and weaknesses of genetic monitoring methods.

Two general paths are presented:

I have particular objectives in mind.

Can genetic methods be used to meet them?

I have access to genetic data.

What analyses and objectives may be appropriate?