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School of Natural Resources Seminar Series

Manhandling mallards: The conservation paradox of feral populations and the meaning of wild

Date: Time: 3:30 pm
Hardin Hall Room: 107 South (Auditorium)
Additional Info: HARH
Contact: John Benson,
Presented by Philip Lavretsky, Associate Professor, Biological Sciences | University of Texas at El Paso.

An increasing human footprint is forcing scientists to re-evaluate the value systems of general conservation biology. In addition to climate- and human-induced ecological changes, the translocation of individuals around the world is leading to rising incidences of anthropogenic hybridization, particularly between domestic and wild congeners. Applying a landscape genomics approach for thousands of samples across continental and island mallard populations, we establish that a single domestic game-farm mallard breed is the source for contemporary release programs in Eurasia and North America, as well as for established feral populations in New Zealand and Hawaii. In particular, central Europe and eastern North America were identified as epicenters of ongoing anthropogenic hybridization, demonstrating how the continued releases of millions of game-farm mallards are affecting the genetic integrity of wild mallards. Furthermore, Holarctic wild populations and self-sustaining feral populations in New Zealand show signatures of local adaptation. Together, these results demonstrate that ’wild’ is not singular, and that even feral populations are capable of quickly responding and adapting to natural processes.

Lab Website:

Biological Sketch
My interest lies in bridging the gap between evolutionary and wildlife genetics as an informative means for conservation and management efforts. Specifically, I believe that our ability to identify and understand what species, population, etc. are in regards to adaptive and non-adaptive traits is essential when attempting to establish potential plans. In addition to conservation implications, I am interested in understanding the underlying evolutionary drivers impacting genomes as a means to understand the primary drivers of speciation, particularly at the earliest stages of divergence. While my primary study system has been the mallard complex, I work across a variety of taxa and questions.

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This event originated in SNR Seminars & Discussions.