Thesis: Investigating the underlying assumptions and potential risk of using targeted gene flow to increase the rate that species may adapt to climate change
Targeted Gene Flow (TGF) has been suggested as a management strategy to increase the rate that species can adapt to climate change. It involves the movement of pre-adapted individuals within the species range to introduce specific adaptive variation into recipient populations and increase their evolutionary potential. For TGF to be successful we are assuming that introduced adaptive variation (specific to the local environment) will be incorporated into the gene pool of the receiving population, known as adaptive introgression. We are also assuming that the fitness of offspring in the mixed population will not be reduced over time due to genetic incompatibilities between local and non-local crosses. However, there is no evidence to support these assumptions. A translocated population of periwinkle (Bembicium vittatum) was established in Fremantle in 1993 from three genetically distinct source populations, which provides a rare opportunity to investigate the long term effects of mixing genetically divergent populations. I will use whole genome sequencing techniques to look for evidence of outbreeding depression and adaptive introgression in the translocated population after almost 10 generations of genetic mixing.
Why my research is important
A major concern regarding the fate of many species is that they may not be able to adapt fast enough to keep pace with the predicted rates of climate change. TGF, therefore, will likely be necessary to reduce the extinction risk of many species but first we must develop a better understanding of the underlying assumptions.