UH Hilo Assistant Professor Jolene Sutton and colleagues are awarded Marsden Fund for research on endangered birds

Thursday, November 8, 2018, 2:39am by

UH Hilo Assistant Professor Jolene Sutton along with colleagues from University of Otago (New Zealand), University of Sydney (Australia), and San Diego Zoo Global have been awarded a Marsden Fund for their project, “Resolving the genomic architecture of hatching failure to improve conservation of endangered birds”. The award will provide 933,000$NZD (~630,000$USD) over three years. 

Abstract: “Egg-hatching failure is a frustrating reality in endangered bird conservation. Many eggs fail to hatch due to reduced fitness of individuals with related parents (inbreeding depression). Despite decades of research on the topic, management guidelines often simply state “avoid inbreeding”. We need to do better. We take advantage of recent advances in molecular genetics and bioinformatics to discover the genomic architecture of hatching failure in two iconic endangered birds: ‘Alalā (Hawai‘i) and Kākāpƍ (New Zealand). These two species are powerful model systems for uncovering the cause of hatching problems that plague many species: both species have long-term pedigree data, detailed fitness records, extensive high quality genomic resources, and large numbers of samples (including embryos that died in the egg) for analysis. We will also capitalize on a growing number of published avian reference genomes to undertake comparative analysis and enable our results to be applied more broadly. By combining massive datasets in this way, we are uniquely placed to make the most of recent molecular and analytical advances and uncover why inbreeding leads to hatching failure. Our study will make a fundamental contribution to the understanding of hatching success in birds, and offer much-needed management options for endangered species conservation.”