State Genetic Diversity Study App to Inform US Fish and Wildlife Conservation Efforts for Endangered Plants of North Carolina | USS News


BOONE – Spread venison, a rare plant that thrives in western North Carolina – at elevations over 4,000 feet – is in danger of extinction.

To help preserve and protect this federally threatened plant, whose scientific name is Geum radiatum, Appalachian State University’s Matt Estep began a five-year study to examine the genetic diversity and sustainability of populations located within Roan Mountain. Project 2020-25 is funded by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Part of the rose family, Geum radiatum is a perennial herb, reaching over 20 inches and blooming bright yellow flowers from June through September. The plant is native to the southern Appalachians and is only found on the high elevation peaks of western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee.

According to Estep, a plant breeder and associate professor in the App State Department of Biology, the plant species is vulnerable to extinction in part due to climate change, land use planning and outdoor recreation.

Biology students from Estep and App State will work with Blue Ridge Parkway ecologist and arborist Chris Ulrey, who monitors the species annually. They will collect leaf tissue samples to use in genetic diversity analyzes conducted in Estep’s on-campus lab at App State.

The project will provide a better understanding of the genetic sustainability of the propagating barnacle, Estep said, and help inform conservation strategies for the species, as well as other long-lived perennials.

Genetic rescue for the spread of benoîte

In the 1990s, a conservation technique known as genetic rescue was applied to help strengthen failing subpopulations of the Peck’s Column on Mount Roan, which stretches across the North Carolina border. and Tennessee. This included bringing a genetically diverse population of the plant to cross with the native mountain population.

Estep said the aim of his study is to better understand the effects of this intervention – in particular, whether it positively or negatively affected the genetics of hybrid offspring of plants.

By linking the genetic data from the study to more than 20 years of plant demographics generated by Ulrey, Estep will be able to assess the fitness of these plants native to Roan Mountain, those that were imported from another place and their hybrid offspring, he said.

In her App State lab, Estep and Morgan Gaglianese-Woody, of Charlotte, a graduate student in the university’s biology-ecology and evolutionary biology program, will determine whether the hybrid offspring are stronger or healthier than their parents – or less.

According to Estep, more broad benoît are preserved in the herbaria than exist in the wild. The App State Campus Herbarium, containing approximately 29,000 plant specimens from around the world, includes Benoît scattered throughout its collection, which is a valuable teaching and research tool for App students and faculty. State, Estep said.

App State’s undergraduate biology students will be involved in the fieldwork for this project, Estep said, and he will incorporate the study results into his undergraduate course in conservation genetics.

Estep said that this type of hands-on fieldwork gives students the opportunity to learn more about outdoor careers in biology, as well as perform field observations – experiences that cannot be taught. in class, he added.

Fieldwork also allows students to network and interact with national and / or national park professionals – a gateway to available jobs in land management and conservation disciplines, Estep said.

Estep has served as a thesis supervisor for several undergraduates in the Honors Program in the Department of Biology and Honors College at the university.

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