Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Natural Resource Ecology and Management
Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Julie A. Blanchong
Understanding the degree to which population connectivity is influenced by social structure, movement patterns, and management actions is important for development and evaluation of the impact of wildlife management strategies on wild game populations. I used population genetic tools to examine genetic diversity and spatial genetic structure of an abundant, highly vagile habitat generalist game species, the white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). I used both microsatellites and mitochondrial DNA sequences to explore the roles of proximity, landscape, and population history on genetic connectivity of deer at local, statewide, and regional spatial scales. At local scales, I evaluated the effects of spatial proximity on levels of connectivity between urban and adjacent rural deer populations. I found high levels of genetic similarity, suggesting that localized management to control densities of urban deer populations may be complicated by recolonization due to movement of deer from rural into urban areas. I examined the effects of differences in population history and management on levels of connectivity to understand potential for disease spread between a captive and adjacent wild deer population. I found high levels genetic similarity that could be attributed to numerous mechanisms, and therefore could not make any definitive inferences regarding the captive facility as a source of infection for wild deer. At a statewide level, I evaluated the influence of landscape factors on deer spatial genetic structure across Iowa, and found weak genetic structure related to landscape factors, indicating that Iowa deer are part of a single continuous population across the state with few limitations on movement and potential for disease spread. At a range-wide scale, I found an impact of historical deer management on broad scale population connectivity of deer across their North American range. Specifically, translocation efforts led to higher levels of diversity and increased genetic similarity between geographically distant deer populations compared to naturally restored populations. My results suggest that, despite their high vagility and habitat generalist nature, social structure, landscape characteristics, and management history all impact genetic structure of white-tailed deer populations at multiple spatial scales.
Lynne Gardner Almond
Gardner Almond, Lynne, "Using population genetics to examine white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) connectivity across multiple spatial scales: influences of proximity, landscape, and history" (2018). Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 17187.