• Spencer Bruce

Linking landscape genetics and fisheries

Updated: Sep 5, 2019

Aquatic species and their ecosystems play fundamental roles in sustaining global biodiversity


Over the course of the past decade, one of my major long-term research goals has been to determine how anthropogenic influences are shaping cold-water fish populations and their genetic structure under altered habitat regimes. To that end, my research in this area integrates state of the art molecular techniques, ecology, modeling, geography, and bioinformatics to address questions related to conservation, restoration and evolutionary capacity across aquatic landscapes. The integration of these multiple lines of investigation offers a fantastic opportunity to study the effects of adaptive radiation and habitat fragmentation on multiple biological levels, including the recognition of genes coding for potential selective advantages, the identification and characterization of correlations between genetic diversity and habitat characteristics, functionally relevant differences in phenotypic responses to selection pressures, and the ecological consequences of prolonged habitat degradation. Additionally, my examination of these aspects of evolution within a phylogenetic context provides a historical facet to these studies, allowing me to address broader questions concerning post-glacial colonization, patterns of species-wide intraspecific variation, and the roles that climate and geography have played in shaping spatial genetic structure in dendritic riverine networks. My most recent efforts have focused on identifying correlates between population genetic structure, hybridization, and ecological characteristics within the Brook Trout’s native range utilizing current genetic and bioinformatic techniques. I plan to supplement this approach in the coming years using next generation sequencing (NGS) technology to identify areas that currently exhibit evidence of potential adaptive responses. These baseline studies will be used to identify restoration potential across various cold-water fish species, to facilitate examinations of adaptive evolution of individual phenotypic constituents, and to expand studies of adaptive evolution in terms of ecology to other groups of fishes in the context of aquatic landscapes.

Funding & Acknowledgments This work has been supported by the New York State Museum, the Hudson River Foundation, Trout Power Inc., Trout Unlimited, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and would not be possible without the help and support of Dr. Jeremy Wright, Dr. Matthew Hare, the United States Geological Survey, The Nature Conservancy, Fred Henson, Dr. Maureen Krause, and Dr. Peter Daniel.

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