Samarth Mathur

Samarth Mathur, Ph.D.
Purdue University
Major Adivsor: J. Andrew DeWoody, Ph.D.

Conservation and Population Genomics of Montezuma Quail (Cyrtonyx montezumae)

Successful conservation strategies require a better understanding of the biological and environmental factors that collectively affect population dynamics and sustainability of a species. Montezuma quail is a gallinaceous game species considered vulnerable to extirpation in Texas; however, Arizona and New Mexico populations are more robust and a possible source for active management actions like supplementation and/or genetic rescue. Our initial assessment of genetic variation in Montezuma quail populations indicated that isolated Texas populations in the Davis Mountains near Alpine exhibit signs of genomic erosion, including small effective population size and reduced heterozygosity at fitness-related genes compared to samples from other states. We are now leveraging whole genome data from multiple birds to further study genome-wide effects of demographic fragmentation and habitat isolation. We plan to create landscape models mapping their genetic connectivity and conduct forward simulations to determine whether efforts like genetic rescue would improve the overall adaptive potential of these small isolated peripheral populations. Ultimately, our population genomics and landscape ecology studies of Montezuma quail should yield insights to help wildlife managers conserve this species in Texas and elsewhere.

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