2024 Undergraduate Research Showcase

Grouse Genomics: Exploring the Application of DNA Approaches in a Declining Prairie Grouse

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Student Presentation

Presentation Date


Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Stephanie Galla


Columbian Sharp-tailed Grouse (Tympanuchus phasianellus columbianus; hereafter CSTG) were once widespread in shrub-steppe ecosystems in western North America, but have been in decline due to habitat loss from anthropogenic impact (i.e. climate change, invasive species, human development). CSTG are estimated to occupy only 5-10% of their former range, and are the rarest of the Sharp-tailed Grouse subspecies. While management efforts are in place to conserve this subspecies (i.e. translocations), knowledge gaps may be impeding success. Genetic and genomic tools can uncover important background including understanding remaining diversity, estimating population structure, connectivity, demographic histories, and multi-species interactions. To perform this research, it is necessary to first establish methodology in sample collection, preparation, and DNA extraction. To optimize these approaches, I worked with the Conservation Genetics Lab at Boise State University to subsample and extract DNA from fecal and muscle tissue samples of this declining grouse. DNA extraction methods were tested across samples utilizing both column and lithium chloroform extraction techniques, with assessments of DNA quality and quantity performed to compare methods and determine the optimal procedure. Establishing protocol and methodology is vital to investigating these research questions about CSTG and aid in conservation management of this vulnerable subspecies.

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