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A molecular framework for predicting the response of high latitude vertebrates and associated pathogens to climate change

Resource managers need to predict the response of species to rapidly changing environmental conditions expected under climate change scenarios, particularly in high latitude ecosystems. Accelerating global climate change in high latitudes is increasingly impacting indigenous people who subsist heavily on native wildlife and plant resources and are at increased risk of exposure to emerging zoonotic diseases. Because parasite and pathogen diversity is generally lower in high latitudes, wildlife species living there are likely to be immunologically naïve to pathogens that accompany colonizing temperate wildlife species expanding from southern regions, as well as from both eastern and western Beringia. Immunological vulnerability, combined with predicted increases in pathogen virulence, may have devastating effects on high latitude species and the indigenous people who depend upon them. Demographic and adaptive response of wildlife species to climate involve genetic changes that leave signatures accessible to rigorous genetic analyses that incorporate coalescence theory and multiple genetic markers applied to both host and parasite species. Determining broad-scale responses to past climate change, across taxonomic groups, will provide a powerful framework for predicting future responses. The goal of this research is to use a molecular approach involving co-distributed species to investigate differential demographic responses of high latitude vertebrates, and associated pathogens, to past climate change.

Principal Investigator
Serguei V Drovetski

Serguei V Drovetski

Position: Principal Researcher
Other members
Sandra L. Talbot (PI), Joseph A. Cook, Bill Leacock
Funded by
USGS AK Science Center
2009 (Duration: 2 years)
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