Animal conservation genetics

Course unit title:

Animal conservation genetics

Degree in:

Master Course in Wildlife Management, Conservation, and Control (WMCC)







Type of course unit:


Language of instruction:


Learning outcomes of the course unit:

Attending the course of Animal Conservation Genetics, the student will develop a solid background to appreciate the value of genetic diversity and of the micro-evolutionary processes that shape it over time, as well as to identify the major threats to their maintenance. The student will learn a spectrum of methodologies to monitor such diversity in natural and captive populations, and will comprehend the cause-effect mechanisms that lead to a loss of diversity and adaptation with negative impacts on population viability. These skills will enable the student to define experimental protocols for genetic monitoring of animal populations and to contribute to the implementation of adequate wildlife management plans and conservation policies.

Moreover, the preparation of a group project referred to a specific case study will induce students to develop capacities of critical evaluation and interpretation of published data. The project presentation will contribute to train the communication skills, favouring an attitude to clearly expose information, scientific data and personal opinions to a mixed audience of specialists and non-specialists.

Course contents:

The course deals with the following topics:

-           Concepts of genetic diversity, adaptation and fitness

-           Elements of population genetics

-           Methodological approaches in DNA-based surveys

-           Genetic effects of demography, fragmentation and hybridization

-           Taxonomical issues and phylogenetics

-           Forensic genetics on endangered species

-           Genetic aspects in translocations and reintroductions

-           Genetic management of threatened taxa

These topics are illustrated by alternating theoretical lessons and case studies. Practical exercises will concern lab analysis of animal DNA (genotyping) and the processing of genetic data for taxonomical determination or individual profiling.


Recommended or required reading and course materials:

The following textbooks are recommended:

  • Introduction to Conservation Genetics – Frankham R., Ballou J.D., Briscoe D.A. (2010)Second edition. Cambridge University Press
  • Conservation and the Genetics of Populations – Allendorf F.W., Luikart G.H.,Aitken S.N. (2012) John Wiley & Sons

The slides and supplementary materials used for lectures and practice will be accessible to the students through an online platform (Moodle).

Mode of delivery:

Frontal lessons with the use of PowerPoint presentations; practical lessons in DNA laboratory (genetic analysis) and in computer room (training on genetic data).

Teaching methods:

The course has a theoretical-practical nature and is organized into lectures on theoretical aspects and a practical part including lab work and statistical training on genetic data. Students will be also asked to prepare a group project, dealing with an animal species, a threat and the assessment of its impact on the genetic status of the species. The project will be presented to the class at the end of the course.

Assessment methods and criteria:

Group project evaluation and multiple response test on the theoretical and practical contents.