DENVER/Aug. 16, 2023 — Morris Animal Foundation and Revive & Restore have jointly announced funding for seven new projects focused on genomic sequencing and biobanking to protect and manage wildlife in vital kelp forest ecosystems. The selected projects are part of the Wild Genomes program. The program, which is co-funded by both organizations, along with grants from anonymous family foundations, is an initiative aimed at developing applied genomics tools for wildlife conservation.
“Kelp forests are some of the most biodiverse ecosystems in the world and are heavily impacted by warming ocean temperatures,” said Dr. Kathy Tietje, Chief Program Officer at Morris Animal Foundation. “The collaboration between Morris Animal Foundation and Revive & Restore establishes a portfolio of projects focused on species conservation along our ocean coastlines.”
Kelp ecosystems are integral to marine biodiversity, providing a home for myriad species, including sea otters, sea dragons and sharks. These animals rely on the stability of kelp forests for finding shelter, food, and protection from predators. Additionally, kelp forests support a wide array of fish species, such as herring and rockfish, which are vital for the food webs in these ecosystems.
"The significance of kelp forests in supporting intricate food webs in the ocean cannot be overstated," emphasized Dr. Bridget Baumgartner, Director of Research & Development at Revive & Restore. "The selected projects hold great promise for conservation applications today and will demonstrate the value of genomic sequencing and biobanking for kelp forest restoration efforts."
Grant recipients and their topics are:
Fabiola Lafarga de la Cruz, Ensenada Center for Scientific Research and Higher Education – This project will generate much-needed genomic data on surviving populations of black abalone to help with conservation of this endangered species.
Josefin Stiller, University of Copenhagen – Researchers will sequence the genomes of leafy and common sea dragons to better understand current population health status and improve conservation risk assessment of these kelp-dwelling fishes.
Stefan Prost, University of Oulu – The team aims to develop a rapid, relatively inexpensive genomic monitoring strategy based on the genomics of blue mussels to detect kelp forest ecosystems under environmental stress.
Filipe Alberto, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee – This team will study the genomic architecture related to temperature response in bull kelp to inform plans to mitigate climate change impacts on kelp forests.
Samuel Starko, University of Western Australia – This project aims to collect reproductive individuals for biobanking and support the sequencing and assembly of genomes from two Cystophora species of brown seaweed.
Terrie Williams, University of California, Santa Cruz – Researchers will sequence samples from sea otters to estimate inbreeding, construct a pedigree for this subpopulation, and create a high-quality dataset to inform future translocation efforts for this species.
Romina Henriques, University of Pretoria – This team hopes to generate the first detailed reference genome for pyjama sharks.
About Morris Animal Foundation
Morris Animal Foundation’s mission is to bridge science and resources to advance the health of animals. Founded in 1948 and headquartered in Denver, it is one of the largest nonprofit animal health research organizations in the world, funding nearly $160 million in more than 3,000 critical animal health studies to date across a broad range of species. Learn more at morrisanimalfoundation.org.
About Revive & Restore
Revive & Restore is the leading wildlife conservation organization promoting the incorporation of biotechnologies into standard conservation practice. The Sausalito, California nonprofit was formed in 2012 with the idea that 21st century biotechnology can and should be used to enhance genetic diversity, build disease resistance, and facilitate adaptation. Its mission is to enhance biodiversity through the genetic rescue of endangered and extinct species. Learn more at reviverestore.org.