COS 26-7
How do we integrate population genetic data into a species management plan? Considerations from the endangered Poweshiek skipperling butterfly

Tuesday, August 11, 2015: 10:10 AM
324, Baltimore Convention Center
Emily Saarinen, Natural Sciences, New College of Florida, Sarasota, FL
Patrick Reilly, Quantitative and Computational Biology, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ

The Poweshiek skipperling butterfly (Oarisma poweshiek) is newly listed for federal protection under the Endangered Species Act. This species inhabits remnant patches of tall grass prairies and has greatly diminished in population number and abundance across its historical range.  Multiple conservation management programs are currently underway to preserve and manage this species across Midwestern states and Canada.  At present, little is known about the remaining genetic diversity in these populations.  This information is critical to the success of captive breeding programs that are being considered for species recovery.  Understanding of current genetic diversity will prevent inbreeding in captive colonies and assist in the retention of genetic diversity in extant populations.  Measures of gene flow will allow for quantification of the degree of isolation present in extant populations.  In this project, we used multiple next-generation sequencing methodologies to develop microsatellite markers suitable for addressing these questions and discuss results.  We describe the bioinformatics techniques used to pull useful, polymorphic microsatellite markers from massive amounts of sequencing data. 


Preliminary results describe the existing genetic diversity in the Poweshiek skipperling across its range in the Midwestern US and Canada.  Results show more neutral genetic diversity than would be assumed based on the small census sizes counts alone.  We present information on the presence and frequency of novel alleles across the species range and provide updates on current population status in the US (multiple local extirpations) and Canada (small but persistent populations). Lastly, we discuss how genetic diversity may be incorporated into management plans along with the difficult decision-making process of when to consider taking individuals into a captive colony for conservation purposes.