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Welcome to the interactive web schedule for the 2019 Midwest Fish & Wildlife Conference! The schedule is subject to change (as of November 7, 2018). Please check back for updates. To return to the main Conference website, go to: www.midwestfw.org.

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Monday, January 28 • 4:40pm - 5:00pm
(SYMPOSIA-02) Does Habitat Area Influence Genetic Diversity? A Case Study with the Eastern Massasauga (Sistrurus catenatus)

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AUTHORS: Eric McCluskey, Grand Valley State University; H. Lisle Gibbs, The Ohio State University; Scott Martin, The Ohio State University; Jennifer Moore, Grand Valley State University

ABSTRACT: The loss of genetic diversity in fragmented landscapes is a major concern for threatened and endangered species. Reductions in patch size and connectivity are expected to further erode genetic diversity for isolated populations. In order to preserve genetic diversity, most conservation efforts are focused on ameliorating the connectivity issue via corridor creation to promote gene flow. Addressing the potential loss of genetic diversity from a habitat perspective is less straightforward because the relationship between habitat area and genetic diversity has not been thoroughly investigated across taxa in the field of landscape genetics. We examined this relationship for a federally threatened species, Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake (Sistrurus catenatus), that is largely restricted to isolated populations making loss of genetic diversity a pertinent management issue. We obtained genetic diversity data from populations across the range that varied in habitat amount and land use history. A subset of these are in states (IL, MI, and OH) with historic land cover datasets, derived from Public Land Surveys conducted prior to most land alterations associated with European colonization and expansion. We evaluated the relationship between various habitat metrics and genetic diversity across multiple spatial and temporal scales. Across the range, genetic diversity does not appear to be directly related to habitat area at the patch level within contemporary environments. We did detect a lasting genetic signal from historic habitat levels at a broad scale. Populations with high habitat area estimates from the 1800s exhibited moderate to high genetic diversity, despite dramatic habitat loss in some cases. These results demonstrate a certain degree of genetic resiliency among historically robust populations. Hence, even small, remnant populations may still harbor allelic diversity that could be maintained with proactive habitat management to boost population size and connectivity.

Monday January 28, 2019 4:40pm - 5:00pm
HOPE BALLROOM B