Western Aquatic Ecosystem Studies: Biology, Genetics and Ecology
The interactions between species and their biotic and abiotic environments is critical to the health and dynamics of food webs and community structure. A better understanding of these interactions will result in improved management of natural resources and habitat restoration. However, understanding these interactions has been complicated by several factors including:
- poor definition of species composition in complex habitats such as water, soil, wood;
- poor biological understanding of microbial symbionts (pathogens, mutualists, and commensals);
- low resolution taxonomic systems;
- poor understanding of host tolerance to disease agents;
- lack of connectivity between microbial components of sediment and soil food webs;
- poor understanding of how abiotic factors affect symbiotic interactions, disease susceptibility, and fitness of animals, plants and microbes; and
- lack of genetic markers to discriminate gender and life histories of many species.
The development of molecular tools to discriminate species, genotypes within species, life history stages, gender, and to align morphologically indiscriminant juveniles with morphologically distinct adults will allow researchers to address these issues. In addition, the development of rapid diagnostic molecular systems will enable genetic analyses to be incorporated into monitoring programs. Currently, there are few rapid diagnostic genetic systems available and they are critically needed by natural resource managers.