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  1. The unprecedented rate of extinction calls for efficient use of genetics to help conserve biodiversity. Several recent genomic and simulation-based studies have argued that the field of conservation biology has placed too much focus on conserving genome-wide genetic variation, and that the field should instead focus on managing the subset of functional genetic variation that is thought to affect fitness. Here, we critically evaluate the feasibility and likely benefits of this approach in conservation. We find that population genetics theory and empirical results show that conserving genome-wide genetic variation is generally the best approach to prevent inbreeding depression and lossmore »of adaptive potential from driving populations toward extinction. Focusing conservation efforts on presumably functional genetic variation will only be feasible occasionally, often misleading, and counterproductive when prioritized over genome-wide genetic variation. Given the increasing rate of habitat loss and other environmental changes, failure to recognize the detrimental effects of lost genome-wide genetic variation on long-term population viability will only worsen the biodiversity crisis.

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  2. Koepfli, Klaus-Peter (Ed.)
    Abstract A current challenge in the fields of evolutionary, ecological, and conservation genomics is balancing production of large-scale datasets with additional training often required to handle such datasets. Thus, there is an increasing need for conservation geneticists to continually learn and train to stay up-to-date through avenues such as symposia, meetings, and workshops. The ConGen meeting is a near-annual workshop that strives to guide participants in understanding population genetics principles, study design, data processing, analysis, interpretation, and applications to real-world conservation issues. Each year of ConGen gathers a diverse set of instructors, students, and resulting lectures, hands-on sessions, and discussions.more »Here, we summarize key lessons learned from the 2019 meeting and more recent updates to the field with a focus on big data in conservation genomics. First, we highlight classical and contemporary issues in study design that are especially relevant to working with big datasets, including the intricacies of data filtering. We next emphasize the importance of building analytical skills and simulating data, and how these skills have applications within and outside of conservation genetics careers. We also highlight recent technological advances and novel applications to conservation of wild populations. Finally, we provide data and recommendations to support ongoing efforts by ConGen organizers and instructors—and beyond—to increase participation of underrepresented minorities in conservation and eco-evolutionary sciences. The future success of conservation genetics requires both continual training in handling big data and a diverse group of people and approaches to tackle key issues, including the global biodiversity-loss crisis.« less
  3. Species richness is greatest in the tropics, and much of this diversity is concentrated in mountains. Janzen proposed that reduced seasonal temperature variation selects for narrower thermal tolerances and limited dispersal along tropical elevation gradients [Janzen DH (1967)Am Nat101:233–249]. These locally adapted traits should, in turn, promote reproductive isolation and higher speciation rates in tropical mountains compared with temperate ones. Here, we show that tropical and temperate montane stream insects have diverged in thermal tolerance and dispersal capacity, two key traits that are drivers of isolation in montane populations. Tropical species in each of three insect clades have markedly narrowermore »thermal tolerances and lower dispersal than temperate species, resulting in significantly greater population divergence, higher cryptic diversity, higher tropical speciation rates, and greater accumulation of species over time. Our study also indicates that tropical montane species, with narrower thermal tolerance and reduced dispersal ability, will be especially vulnerable to rapid climate change.

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