Do California Highways Act as Barriers to Gene Flow for Ground-Dwelling Mammals?

For more information contact Amanda Coen: aecoen@ucdavis.edu

Background and Significance of Study

We are using non-invasive genetic techniques to determine whether highways in northern California act as barriers to mesopredator dispersal and gene flow using coyote and gray fox as model species. We selected these two species to study whether highways impact disturbance-tolerant (coyote) and disturbance-averse (gray fox) species differently. Graduate student Amanda Coen is collecting coyote and gray fox scat samples from either side of study reaches of each of five highways, extracting DNA, and genotyping each sample at a suite of microsatellite loci. She will use landscape genetic techniques to determine whether coyotes and gray foxes are able to cross the highways and if so, whether they are able to reproduce successfully.  If these highways do act as barriers to coyotes and gray foxes, transportation agencies may consider mitigation efforts to restore mesopredator population connectivity.

Collaborators

Fraser Shilling, Road Ecology Center, University of California Davis

Ben Sacks, Mammalian Ecology and Conservation Unit, University of California Davis

National Center of Sustainable Transportation, University of California Davis

Caltrans