Post-Grant Reports


Faculty Development Grant Report

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Biology | Genetics and Genomics | Plant Breeding and Genetics | Plant Pathology


Whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis) covers an expansive range in western North America, and it is a keystone species of subalpine environments. Whitebark is susceptible to multiple threats – climate change, white pine blister rust, mountain pine beetle, and fire exclusion – and it is suffering significant mortality range-wide, prompting the tree to be listed as ‘globally endangered’ by the IUCN and ‘endangered’ by the Canadian government. Conservation collections (in situ and ex situ) are being initiated to preserve the genetic legacy of the species. Reliable, transferrable, and highly variable genetic markers are essential for quantifying the genetic profiles of seed collections relative to natural stands, and ensuring the completeness of conservation collections. We evaluated the use of hybridization-based target capture to enrich specific genomic regions from the 30+ GB genome of whitebark pine, and to evaluate genetic variation across loci, trees, and geography. Probes were designed to capture 7,849 distinct genes, and screening was performed on 48 trees. Despite the inclusion of repetitive elements in the probe pool, the resulting dataset provided information on 4,452 genes and 32% of targeted positions (528,873 bp), and we were able to identify 12,390 segregating sites from 47 trees. Variation at SNP sites reveals strong geographic trends in heterozygosity and allelic richness, with trees from the southern Cascade and Sierra Range showing the greatest distinctiveness and differentiation. Our results show that targeted enrichment is a robust method that produces high quality, codominant genotypes from large genomes, even if repetitive elements are included in the bait pool. The resulting data can be readily integrated into management and gene conservation activities for whitebark pine and have the potential to be applied to other members of 5-needle pine group (Pinus subsect. Quinquefoliae) due to their limited genetic divergence.


This research was conducted as part of a Linfield College Faculty Development Grant in 2014, funded by the Office of Academic Affairs.

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