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Undergraduate Research Project Management System

Genetic Diversity and Population Structure of Eelgrass in Southeastern Alaska

Status Complete
Seeking Researchers No
Start Date 09/01/2003
End Date 06/30/2004
Funding Source Undergraduate Research Grants
Funding Amount
Community Partner
Related Course
Last Updated 07/05/2008 01:25AM


  Gary Davies

Student Researchers
  Jolene Rearick


Eelgrass (Zostera marina) meadows play a critical ecological role in coastal environments, sheltering and supporting many commercially important fish, shellfish, and water birds. In recent years populations of eelgrass have begun to decline due to both natural and human-related causes. Increased human population numbers along ocean shores and changes in global climate could accelerate this downward trend. Populations of eelgrass in Alaska have not yet suffered the severe declines characteristic of other areas along the Pacific coast. Nevertheless, the same impacts causing declines in more southerly populations are likely to begin to impact populations of eelgrass in Alaska . Indeed, predictive global climate change models suggest there will be larger increases in air and sea temperatures at higher, relative to lower, latitudes, with the winter season experiencing the greatest gains. This may result in decreases in genetic variability of eelgrass in Alaska, which could decrease fitness of these populations. Populations of eelgrass in Southeast Alaska provide an opportunity to study genetic characteristics of relatively undisturbed populations of eelgrass through the analyses of polymorphisms at DNA microsatellite loci, while at the same time providing information to NOAA researchers currently characterizing essential fish habitat in Southeast Alaska.

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