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Research Starter Grant: Joint Genetic And Isotopic Assignment Methods To Empower Studies Of Avian Migration

Novembre, John
University of California - Los Angeles
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Methods for assigning an individual of unknown origin to a population (i.e. assignment methods) are a fundamental tool of researchers in ecology, evolutionary, and conservation biology. While many of these methods employ genetic markers or stable-isotope abundances, no bioinformatic methods exist for combining the two sources of data to make a single assignment. Here, motivated by numerous available data-sets from migratory Neotropical passerine birds, we propose to develop a novel joint assignment method that will leverage genetic and stable-isotope data simultaneously to make assignments of individuals to their migratory origins (i.e. breeding populations). To develop a method that will get full use of existing and incoming genetic and isotopic data from avian systems. The tools developed as part of this research will be made freely available on-line via user-friendly software and source code. The proposed research promises to move migration biology forward by providing better tools to understand patterns of migratory connectivity. In avian systems, understanding migratory connectivity lies at the heart of numerous important questions, such as the reasons for population declines in migratory birds, the spatial and temporal transmission dynamics of avian born diseases (e.g. avian influenza and West Nile virus), as well as the evolution of migration. The tools developed here will be useful for exploiting existing data sets and they will enrich the potential of the 100,000-large feather collection housed at the Center for Tropical Research at UCLA. Finally, this project will provide training and support for a PhD biomathematics student at UCLA.

Funding Source
United States Nat'l. Science Fndn.
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