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Geographic patterns of variation with DNA markers can reveal much about population structure, dispersal, and breeding patterns over time. The pattern of diversity within genetic loci can also provide insight into disease resistance, individual fitness, and population viability.
We are applying modern molecular genetic techniques to screen for variation in both coding and non-coding loci in a number of marine mammal species. Much of this research involves collaboration with Native communities across the north including collection of tissue samples from a wide variety of species. Sampling methods include biopsying free swimming animals using modified crossbows. Our findings are being used to identify management stocks and develop recovery plans for marine mammals across the northern hemisphere.
Recent research projects include: the investigation of MHC diversity in beluga whales, collaboration with NOAA scientists on an extensive study of mating systems in Antarctic fur seals, the establishment of an Ancient DNA laboratory, and a comprehensive genetic study of bottlenose dolphins in the Indian River Lagoon in collaboration with the Marine Mammal Program here at HBOI-FAU.