BS-3065: Molecular Ecology
Semester 1 | Credits: 10
Recent developments in the application of modern genetic techniques to ecology and conservation have revealed many new insights. This module aims to show how molecular markers can be used to improve our understanding of various population processes.
Upon completion of the module students are expected to be able to:
- Describe the various sorts of molecular marker and their properties.
- Describe and explain how molecular markers can be used to:
- Elucidate mate choice and breeding behaviour.
- Analyse hybrid zones.
- Reveal geographical patterns of genetic variation.
- Quantify inbreeding.
- Inform conservation programmes.
- Use the literature relating to ecological genetics and communicate it in writing.
- Plan and execute a verbal seminar presentation on inbreeding.
The application of molecular markers and molecular genetic techniques to problems in ecology is becoming ever more important. In particular, increased interest in the areas of biodiversity and conservation has led to a greater need among ecologists to use molecular genetic techniques. This module introduces molecular markers and considers their application to various ecological processes and situations that hitherto were not easily studied, e.g. geographical patterns of genetic variation, the design of conservation strategies, the analysis of hybrid zones, and mate choice and breeding behaviour in birds.
The module has a lecture/practical programme of approximately half the loading of a 20-credit third year module.
Molecular markers (Dr T Schwarzacher)
- RFLPs; sequencing; arbitrary primers (RAPDs, ISSRs, AFLPs); micro-satellites; isozymes.
Ecological processes (Dr T Schwarzacher)
- Mating systems and behaviour - Parentage; sexual selection, mating systems and parental care; altruism and eusociality
- Hybrid zones - How molecular markers are used to follow the processes of hybridisation, dispersal and gene flow when distinct species or races meet. Examples include grasshoppers, toads, shrews and mice.
Population migrations and phylogeography (Dr RJ Gornall)
- Understanding patterns of geographical variation within species; rates and patterns of dispersal and migration; responses to climate change.
Population genetics (Dr RJ Gornall)
- Measures of genetic diversity; inbreeding; quantitative traits.
Conservation genetics (Dr RJ Gornall)
- An outline of the ways in which genetic data (QTLs and marker loci) can contribute to conservation biology. Examples include cheetahs, Asiatic lions, red wolf, whales, turtles, birds, brown bears, mahogany, primroses and orchids.
Two practical classes
- Isozymes and the measurement of genetic variability
- The use of DNA phylogenies in conservation genetics
- On aspects and consequences of inbreeding (involves students working in small groups).
Tutorial discussion and advice
- On how to address the examination paper and past exam questions.
Practical reports and seminar - 30%
Written exam (two hours; two out of five questions to be answered) - 70%
Beebee TJC and Rowe G (2004). An introduction to molecular ecology. Oxford University Press, Oxford. 0-19-924857-5. £26.99
Freeland J (2005). Molecular ecology. J Wiley, London. 0470090626. £29.95
The module links naturally with BS-3067 (Evolution) and with BS-3041 (Evolutionary Genetics).