Using molecular data to test connectivity and the circumpolar paradigm for Antarctic marine invertebrates
The west Antarctic Peninsula is warming rapidly, and continuing changes in the thermal regime will likely result in severe consequences for marine fauna, including potential extinction of strongly adapted stenotherms, and invasions from neighboring faunas. Initial impacts of climate change may result in changes in connectivity among populations of the same species. These changes may will be undetectable by direct observation, but may be assessed via genetic connectivity, i.e. differences in allele or haplotype frequencies among populations can be used to infer levels of gene flow. The proposed research will explore the role that the Scotia Arc plays in connecting populations from South America to Antarctica, a corridor identified as a likely entry route for invaders into Antarctica. It also will examine the way in which cryptic species may confound our knowledge of broad-scale distributions, and in doing so, make contributions towards understanding biodiversity and testing the paradigm of circumpolarity in Antarctica. The principal investigator will to collect multi-locus genetic data across 'species' from a broad suite of benthic marine invertebrate phyla, from multiple locations, in order to address hypotheses regarding speciation and connectivity, to estimate demographic population changes, and to identify the underlying processes that drive observed phylogeographic patterns. Comparative phylogeography is a particularly valuable approach because it enables the identification of long-term barriers and refugia common to groups of species and is consequently highly relevant to conservation planning. Moreover, this work will form a valuable baseline for detecting future changes in connectivity. The results of the research will be disseminated through peer-reviewed publications and presentations at conferences. In addition, the project will support the interdisciplinary training of a female graduate student, two undergraduate students, and host additional summer students through the STARS program at SIO, which helps minority students prepare for graduate school. This project will integrate research and education through conducting an interdisciplinary workshop that brings together Earth Science and Biology high school teachers. This workshop aims to assist teachers derive their own curricula uniting plate tectonics, ocean history and evolution, supporting a new high school earth sciences program. Information generated by this project will also directly feed into international efforts to design a series of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in Antarctica.
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