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Our Work: 

Worldwide, many bird species are in decline because of the effects of habitat loss, fragmentation, human disturbance, and climate change. To assess the ability of birds to respond to a changing world and provide informed conservation management strategies, we need to understand their adaptive capacity and forecast how they will respond to change. We use molecular data to understand avian diversity, demographics, and multi-species interactions to develop best conservation management strategies.


Conceptual diagram of research in the Conservation Genetics Lab.

Conservation Genetics Lab Research


Columbian Sharp-tailed Grouse (Tympanuchus phasianellus columbianus)


Columbian Sharp-tailed Grouse have experienced significant decline, but little is known about how variation in life history traits (e.g., diet) relates to local adaptations, population demographics, and translocation success. Along with collaborators at the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, we are assessing the diet of Columbian Sharp-tailed Grouse across their range using fecal molecular metabarcoding. Results can be used to better inform revegetation and translocation efforts in this subspecies.

Gyrfalcon (Falco rusticolus)

With a warming climate, many terrestrial communities in the northern hemisphere are shifting their distributions northward, exposing arctic ecosystems to pathogens previously unknown to local populations. Despite these expansions, the effects of novel pathogens on natural arctic systems remain poorly characterized, with a need for mechanisms that can forecast resilience of natural populations in the new arctic. Here, we leverage global partnerships across the arctic and emergent technologies to sequence the genomes and metagenomes of an iconic holarctic raptor—the gyrfalcon—to understand the mechanisms that underpin immune competence.

Conservation Genetics Lab Collaborations

GUTT - Genomes Underlying Toxin Tolerance

Our team collaborates with an interdisciplinary group of researchers on an EPSCoR Track-II Grant (Genomes Underlying Toxin Tolerance, or GUTT) to better understand the mechanisms underpinning toxin tolerance for herbivores, including Greater Sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) and Icelandic Rock Ptarmigan (Lagopus muta). Characterization of genes underpinning detoxification (cytochrome P-450) and microbial communities from birds using 16S sequencing may provide the mechanistic basis for these traits. 

GEM3 - Genes by Environment: Modeling, Mechanisms, Mapping

We also collaborate with an EPSCoR Track-I grant (Genes by Environment: Modeling, Mechanisms, Mapping, or GEM3) to better understand the genetic mechanisms underpinning phenotypes of interest in big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata). 

Endeavour Fund Smart Ideas

Along with a fantastic team of conservation researchers and practitioners in Aotearoa New Zealand (The Conservation, Systematics, and Evolution Research Team, or ConSERT), we are exploring the genomic-basis of maladaptive traits in a critically endangered taonga (treasured) species, the kākāpō (Strigops habroptilus). By incorporating genomic mechanisms into an individual-based model, we aim to understand how to best maximize diversity while mitigating maladaptive traits. 

American Kestrel Full Cycle Phenology Project

Our team works with the Full Cycle Phenology project—lead by Dr. Julie Heath at Boise State University—to understand the genetic-basis of phenology (timing) in a widespread raptor, the American Kestrel (Falco sparverius). By incorporating molecular markers underpinning lay date timing into an individual-based model, we can understand the downstream effects of adaptive markers on lay date and demographics in a changing environment. 

Recent Publications

Galla SJ, Mittan-Moreau C, Barbosa S (2022) Capturing conservation in the post-genomics era: a book review of "Conservation and the Genomics of Populations." Conservation Genetics.

Melton AM & Galla SJ (Co-First Authors), Dumaguit CDC, Wojahn JMA, Novak S, Serpe M, Martinez P, Buerki S (2022) Meta-analysis reveals trends and gaps in genome-to-phenome research regarding plant drought response. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 23(20), 12297.

Forsdick NG, Adams CIM, Alexander, Clark AC, Collier-Robinson L, Cubrinovska I, Croll Dowgray M, Dowle EJ, Duntsch L, Galla SJ, Howell L, Magid M, Rayne A, Verry AJF, Wold JR, Steeves TE. (2022) Current applications and future promise of genetic/genomic data for conservation in an Aotearoa New Zealand context. Invited Submission to the New Zealand Department of Conservation Science for Conservation Series.

Hauser SS, Galla SJ,  Steeves TE, Latch EK (2022). Comparing approaches for generating genomic-based estimates of relatedness for use in pedigree-based management. Molecular Ecology Resources. 

Galla SJ, Brown L, Couch-Lewis Y, Cubrinovska I, Eason D, Gooley RM, Hamilton JA, Heath JA, Hauser SS, Latch EK, Matocq MD, Richardson A, Wold JR, Hogg CJ, Santure AW, Steeves TE (2022). The relevance of pedigrees in the conservation genomics era. Molecular Ecology.

Robb BC, Olsoy PJ, Mitchell JJ, Caughlin TT, Delparte DM, Galla SJ, Fremgen-Tarantino MR, Nobler JD, Rachlow JL, Shipley LA, Sorensen Forbey J (2022) Near-infrared spectroscopy aids ecological restoration by classifying variation of taxonomy and phenology of a native shrub. Restoration Ecology. DOI: 10.1111/rec.13584

Melton A, Beck J, Galla SJ, Jenkins J, Handley L, Kim M, Grimwood J, Schmutz J, Richardson B, Serpe M, Novak S, Buerki, S (2021) Reversing the genome-to-phenome research pipeline: a draft genome provides hypotheses on drought tolerance in a keystone plant species in western North America threatened by climate change. Ecology and Evolution. DOI:

1Rohn T, Beck J, Galla SJ, Isho NF, Pollock TB, Suresh T, Kulkarni A, Sanghal T, Hayden EJ (2021) Fragmentation of Apolipoprotein E4 is Required for Differential Expression of Inflammation and Activation Related Genes in Microglia Cells. International Journal of Neurodegenerative Disorders, 4(1):1-9.

Wold JR, Galla SJ, Eccles D, Hogg CJ, Koepfli KP, Le Lec M, Guhlin J, Roberts J, Price K, Steeves TE (2021) Expanding the conservation genomics toolbox: incorporating structural variants to enhance functional studies for species of conservation concern. Invited Submission to the Molecular Ecology Special Issue on Whole Genome Sequencing. 

Wojahn JMA, Galla SJ, Melton AE, Buerki S (2021). G2PMineR: A genome to phenome literature review approach. Genes, 12(2): 293.

Overbeek AL and Galla SJ (co-first author), Brown L, Thyne C, Maloney RF, Steeves TE (2020) Pedigree validation using genetic markers in an intensively-managed taonga species, the critically endangered kakī (Himantopus novaezelandiae). Notornis Special Issue on Wading Birds.

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