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Fin clip

Genomics is an exciting and versatile tool for wildlife management, allowing Forest Service scientists and managers to explore the biology of wildlife populations in tremendous detail. High-throughput DNA sequencing technologies offer an unprecedented ability to sequence billions of DNA base pairs from any organism, enabling cutting edge research on the genetic structure of populations, species compositions of communities, trophic interactions, and species history. This information will allow researchers to better define Distinct Population Segments, which are the basis for legal protections of species in the United States. Genomics also provides opportunities for cost-effective monitoring.

Forest Service scientists have used high-throughput sequencing in the past to inform management of multiple species of conservation concern such as the fisher and wolverine, and to help identify species and their geographic boundaries (e.g., cedar sculpin, blue butterflies, genus: Euphilotes).

Ongoing Projects

  • Using high-throughput DNA sequencing to assess genetic connectivity and identify functional genetic variation in Greater Sage-Grouse. These data will allow researchers to assess range-wide genetic structure and connectivity, and to inform management decisions for the species.
    • This project is coordinated by Todd Cross, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Montana. Collaborators on this project include the Bureau of Land Management, Great Northern Landscape Conservation Cooperative, Intermountain West Joint Venture, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, and USDA - NRCS - Sage Grouse Initiative.
  • Forest Service genomics researchers are collaborating with eDNA researchers to develop genomic approaches that detect multiple species in environmental samples (e.g., water samples) with high sensitivity and accuracy.

Future Directions

Forest Service researchers will use techniques similar to those stated above to determine diet content of cryptic species such as lynx, wolverine, and fisher. Researchers will be able to sequence prey DNA found in scats to better understand life histories and habitat requirements of species that are difficult to observe.


PCR setup
  • Genomic DNA extraction
  • High-throughput sequencing library preparation
  • Targeted library enrichment
  • MiSeq Sequencing

Services in Development

  • Targeted community species detection for eDNA samples
  • Targeted prey species detection for fecal samples