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Adriana Attends Conservation Genomics Workshop through UCLA La Kretz Center for California Conservation Science

Adriana, second year PhD student, is largely interested in applying genomic tools to conservation research. She has focused her research on a California endemic lily, Calochortus venustus, and studies floral diversification, evolutionary history, and climatic niches in the species. When the opportunity arose to attend a conservation genomics workshop through the UCLA/ La Kretz Center for California Conservation Science, she knew she had to attend. Dr. Brad Shaffer who runs the workshop is Director of La Kretz, and he arranged for attendees to stay at The Calamigos Ranch which neighbors the La Kretz Field Station that burned down in the Woolsey Fire in 2018. The workshop was composed of lectures, computational exercises, discussions, and interviews with land managers and scientists who focus their research on conserving biodiversity. Some of the main topics were RAD-Seq, population genetics, WGS, RNA-Seq, visualization tools, and eDNA.

Adriana is working on inferring population structure and evolutionary history of Calochortus venustus through RAD-Sequencing. Dr. Victoria Sork reviewed some of the pros and cons of using tools like RAD-Seq for landscape genomics research. While RAD-Seq is the right tool for answering the questions Adriana is looking to answer, Victoria described how projects may be optimized by sampling just a few individuals in each population while increasing the total number of populations in the study.

Once the SNP data is obtained from RAD-Seq, analyses of population dynamics can begin. Dr. Gideon Bradburd reviews conStruct: a statistical tool for modeling continuous and discrete population genetic structure. His model addresses the issue of dealing with discrete clusters vs. continuous clines. Adriana is looking forward to comparing the results of conStruct with those of Structure in Calochortus venustus.

Conservation biologists can attain the goal of preserving biodiversity through various career positions. Many doctoral students realize that professorships are limited and difficult to come by. One alternative is to work as a scientist for a park or NGO. The workshop allowed time to explore these career paths by having an open forum discussion with scientists of The Nature Conservancy, U.S. Fish & Wildlife, and the Santa Monica Recreational Park.

Adriana recommends the workshop for first and second year graduate students who aim to leverage genomic tools for preserving biodiversity. Students from all over the U.S. and even Norway attended the workshop, and are hopeful ing building a diverse and collaborative cohort of scientists.

 

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