October 04, 2016
Vancouver, BC – A subspecies of the Northern Goshawk, Accipiter gentilis laingi, is known to inhabit forests of Haida Gwaii but it is unclear where else this rare bird lives. Understanding the geographic range and genetic make-up of the laingi subspecies from the more common subspecies, Accipiter gentilis atricapillus, is critical to protecting it: the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) has listed laingi as Threatened since 2000. The challenge is that it is difficult to distinguish the two forms of this forest-living raptor based on appearance alone.
COSEWIC makes recommendations to the Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change regarding which forms of wildlife (species or portion of a species, i.e. “identifiable units”) are in danger of becoming extinct and should be listed as Threatened or Endangered under the Species at Risk Act (SARA). Species designation informs provincial management efforts for species at risk, including such measures as the establishment of Wildlife Habitat Areas for key breeding areas, which dictates how forest tenure holders conduct their operations. It is essential to develop a better understanding of the distribution of the laingi form of Northern Goshawks for the sake of effective conservation and land management.
Funded in part by Genome British Columbia, a new user partnership project will conduct a detailed analysis of genomic variation among populations of goshawks. Dr. Darren Irwin of the University of British Columbia will lead the project in collaboration with Mr. Steve Gordon, a biologist with the BC Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, and Mr. Bryce Bancroft with the Coast Forest Products Association. Western Forest Products will also participate in the project. This project represents a unique collaboration between academic researchers, government, and industry associations.
“The ultimate goals of the project are to determine the genetic distinctiveness and geographic boundaries of laingiand develop a genetic assay that other groups can use to identify laingi,” says Dr. Irwin, Professor in the Department of Zoology at UBC. “All of the user partners are committed to publishing and using the research outcomes in a way that appropriately balances conservation of goshawks, conservation of other species and ecosystems along the BC coast, and economic interests”.
The genomic analysis will be performed by researchers in Dr. Irwin’s laboratory including Dr. Armando Geraldes and graduate student Mr. Kenny Askelson. The user partners will assist in acquisition of goshawk genetic samples and information regarding goshawk distribution. The collaborators will all work together to distribute the results of research findings to governmental policymakers and forest industry managers.
“This project will demonstrate the use of genomic analysis in identifiable units and their ranges for more effective conservation policy and management,” says Dr. Catalina Lopez-Correa, Chief Scientific Officer and Vice President, Sector Development, at Genome BC. “We are continuing to invest in research that has immediate tangible impacts like protecting species at risk.”
This project, Genomic differentiation among Northern Goshawks of coastal BC, is valued at over $100,000 and was funded through Genome BC’s User Partnership Program (UPP). For more information on Genome BC’s funding programs please click here.
About Genome British Columbia:
Genome British Columbia leads genomics innovation on Canada’s West Coast and facilitates the integration of genomics into society. A recognized catalyst for government and industry, Genome BC invests in research, entrepreneurship and commercialization in life sciences to address challenges in key sectors such as health, forestry, fisheries, aquaculture, agri-food, energy, mining and environment. Genome BC partners with many national and international public and private funding organizations to drive BC’s bioeconomy. In addition to research, entrepreneurship and commercialization programs, Genome BC is committed to fostering an understanding and appreciation of the life sciences among teachers, students and the general public. www.genomebc.ca