Develop Methods for Assessing Genetic Connectivity Across Transportation Facilities

Focus Area

Wildlife & Ecosystems


Natural Resources






1-2 years

Research Idea Scope

Research Objective: To develop a set of best practices for transportation practitioners to assess genetic connectivity
§ Do a synthesis of the literature on conservation genetics, contact conservation geneticists, and contact state transportation departments to determine the current state of the art in assessing gene flow among populations.
§ Select the methods of assessing gene flow that are most useful in the transportation setting.
§ Using the selected methods prepare a set of best practices for assessing genetic connectivity for use by transportation practitioners.

Urgency and Payoff

It is well known that highways and other transportation facilities can be barriers to the movement of sensitive organisms.  This barrier effect can reduce gene flow which may lead to deleterious effects on sensitive species’ populations such as decline or extirpation. Thus, maintaining the biological connectivity is a key goal for transportation practitioners. Recent advances in genomics and bioinformatics have revolutionized the ability to determine gene flow across landscapes. Incorporating these advances into transportation ecology can help transportation professionals meet the goal of maintaining connectivity.  Because of the importance of gene flow in supporting healthy populations, assessing it is vital to assuring that biological connectivity is maintained in transportation settings. Doing this research will provide transportation practitioners with current, state of the art, methods for assessing gene flow. Thus, helping practitioners design and maintain transportation systems that support the genetic connectivity of sensitive species in a cost effective manner while meeting environmental obligations. Being able to effectively assess genetic connectivity will help in properly locating, designing, and monitoring cost effective fish and wildlife crossings as well as other mitigation measures.

Suggested By

Harold Hunt, Caltrans

[email protected]