August 1, 2015.
Marine turtles are long-lived, migratory vertebrates that encounter a variety of human and natural stressors throughout their lives. Understanding the biology and threats of these animals is challenging because they are hard to observe, and can migrate across whole ocean basins. Minimally invasive sampling techniques (e.g., blood samples) allow us to learn about their physiology, genetics, and the environmental conditions they have experienced. In this project, we developed a novel method to extract the RNA from whole green and loggerhead turtle blood from animals inhabiting a variety of sites across the Pacific Ocean. Some habitats are more pristine, while others have been heavily altered by humans. These samples will be used for high throughput genomic sequencing to provide data on the gene expression, genetic relatedness, and functional genomics of these animals. First, we will look at the genes that are up-regulated in animals inhabiting polluted environments to understand contaminant impacts on marine turtle health. Secondly, we will identify single nucleotide polymorphisms that will be used as tools in future studies to examine fine-scale structure and adaptive variation in future studies. We then pair these data with other data from our research group on sex, size, migration, and foraging ecology. These approaches allow us to generate large amounts of data that can be used for a variety of scientific and conservation studies from small samples. This allows us to sample the animals while having little to no impact, and to monitor health and physiology in live populations over time. This will provide a better understanding of threats to sea turtle populations that can be used by both conservation biologists and ecologists in protecting habitats of sea turtles worldwide.
Biology | Genetics | Genomics | Marine Biology | Molecular Genetics
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Southwest Fisheries Science Center (NOAA SWFSC)
This material is based upon work supported by the S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation and is made possible with contributions from the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1340110, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Chevron Corporation, National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, and from the host research center. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are solely those of the authors. The STAR Program is administered by the Cal Poly Center for Excellence in STEM Education on behalf of the California State University system.