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Weekly Highlights for 4-19-2012

Departmental/Bureau News

USGS Scientist Invited Speaker at University of Washington
On April 26, John Piatt, USGS Alaska Science Center Research Wildlife Biologist, will present an invited talk in the School of Aquatic & Fishery Sciences Departmental 2012 Spring Seminar Series at the University of Washington, Seattle. The talk entitled "Predator response functions and the Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries" will discuss research on global seabird responses to forage fish depletion and the functional relationships between predator and prey. Managers need quantitative data on these relationships to identify "minimum biologically acceptable limits" of forage biomass to ensure the long term viability of these species as well as the societal and economic benefits they provide. Analyses of data from several marine ecosystems of the world suggest that response functions are usually non-linear and exhibit thresholds which may help us identify those "acceptable limits". This talk is open to faculty, students and the public.
Contact: John Piatt Anchorage, AK, (360) 774-0516 x224

New Publication on Identifying Causes of "Conflict" Between Nuclear and Mitochondrial DNA
USGS Alaska Science Center biologist John Pearce is co-author of a study that investigates the often common finding of different levels of genetic structure among waterfowl populations when both nuclear and mitochondrial DNA are used. The authors of the paper tested whether such differences were related to gene flow or the smaller effective population size and sorting rate of mitochondrial relative to nuclear DNA. Using samples from a Holarctic sea duck, the common merganser, analytical results strongly suggest that male gene flow is a more likely explanation for the conflicting patters observed between different classes of molecular markers. The study quantitatively answers a long-standing debate in the molecular genetic literature about the role of male gene flow in discrepancies between mitochondrial and nuclear DNA.

Peters, J. L., K. A. Bolender, and J. M. Pearce. 2012. Behavioural vs. molecular sources of conflict between nuclear and mitochondrial DNA: the role of male-biased dispersal in a Holaractic sea duck. Molecular Ecology. In Press.
Contact: John Pearce Anchorage, AK, (907) 786-7094

Press Inquiries/Media

On April 13, USGS Alaska Science Center scientist Lee Tibbitts answered questions for an article published April 16, in the Anchorage Daily News (Anchorage, AK). The article entitled "Migratory birds make spring official" discussed the spring migration of birds to Alaska.
Contact: Yvette Gillies Anchorage, AK, (907) 786-7039

On April 15, a radio piece on the long-term impacts of the Exxon Valdez oil spill was broadcasted on German Public Radio. USGS Alaska Science Center researcher Daniel Monson was interview by science reporter Monika Seynsche for this piece which focused on herring, but also included a segment on sea birds and see otters. The interview (in German) is now available online at and the transcript (in German) is available at
Contact: Yvette Gillies Anchorage, AK, (907) 786-7039


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