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Conservation Geneticist - A Variety Of Career Directions

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Conservation biologists, and more specifically conservation geneticists or molecular ecologists, are often multi-disciplinary scientists who combine training in ecology, evolutionary biology, conservation, and molecular biology. This unique combination of skills enables these scientists to design field studies aimed at collecting biological specimens needed for research involving genetics, or to advise others who are planning such studies.

Genetics-based conservation involves both research and the implementation of that research's findings. Some conservation geneticists focus their research on identifying natural population units for conservation based on genetic criteria, in an effort to maximize genetic diversity. Others seek to establish taxonomical or population priorities for conservation efforts. Alternatively, a conservation geneticist may monitor trade in endangered species, guide captive-breeding programs, or work on the re-introduction of selected species to habitats from which they are in danger of disappearing. Results from their studies are often central for management decisions regarding the viability and protection of threatened or endangered populations and the designation of critical habitats for conservation.

The discovery of the polymerase chain reaction has enabled conservation biologists to study endangered or threatened species and Conservation biologists are likely to lead projects such as this whooping crane breeding program located in Patuxent, Maryland. their habitats in ways that were previously unimaginable. The use of non-invasively collected samples, such as feces or hair, enables the conservation geneticist to acquire an extraordinary amount of information about life history, demography, distribution, and diversity of rare species without directly observing them. In addition to such studies, with research drawn from skilled geneticists, ecologists, and behavioral biologists, conservation geneticists are now faced with a new set of hightech approaches derived from the emerging field of genomics. The challenge for these biologists will be to evaluate whether these advanced technologies can be used effectively to promote biodiversity, conservation, and habitat protection.

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