Oral Annual Conference of the Genetics Society of Australasia with the NZ Society for Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

Bridging the conservation genetics gap by identifying barriers to uptake for conservation practitioners (665)

Helen R Taylor 1 , Nicolas Dussex 1 2 , Yolanda van Heezik 3
  1. Department of Anatomy, University of Otago, Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand
  2. Department of Bioinformatics and Genetics, Swedish Museum of Natural History, Stockholm, Sweden
  3. Department of Zoology, University of Otago, Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand

Despite its recognized importance for species persistence, integrating genetics into conservation management has proved problematic, creating a “conservation genetics gap”. This gap could widen with the advent of advanced genomic techniques, but these techniques are undoubtedly important for the future of threatened species management. Genetics is frequently a segregated topic at all major interdisciplinary conservation conferences, leaving interaction between conservation geneticists and practitioners all but discouraged. Bridging the conservation genetics gap requires a clear understanding of the barriers to uptake of genetics by conservation practitioners, but few (if any) papers on this topic involve direct consultation with practitioners themselves. We surveyed 148 conservation practitioners in New Zealand’s Department of Conservation. Although practitioners were largely receptive to using genetics for conservation management, access to expertise and funding remain barriers to uptake. Practitioners would like to collaborate with geneticists at universities or other institutes, but do not necessarily know who to talk to or fully understand how genetics might benefit them. We contend these barriers or similar likely exist at an international level, suggest ways they might be overcome and emphasize the need for clearer communication between geneticists and practitioners.