Evolutionary genetics of the phenotypic response to environmental change in the North American red squirrel

The application of molecular markers, quantitative genetics and genomics to natural populations offers the opportunity to study evolution in action.

Red squirrel
North American red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus)

Perhaps no other issue is more critical to wildlife management in the next century than understanding the capacity for natural populations to adapt to rapidly changing environmental conditions, such as global warming. With Stan Boutin and Andrew McAdam we hope to address this issue in a research project based at Kluane, Yukon.

Parturition date has advanced by 18 days over the last 10 years in populations of red squirrels, Tamiasciurus hudsonicus, coinciding with patterns of global climate change (i.e. increasing spring temperature and food availability).

We plan to use molecular markers for paternity analysis and pedigree reconstruction to facilitate quantitative genetic analyses, which will enable us to determine genetic response to natural selection or lie within the range of phenotypic plasticity.


Dr Melissa Gunn (2003-2006)

Katie Hartnup (2003-2005)

Andrew Leviston (2003-2004)


Dr Dave Coltman (now at the University of Alberta, Canada)

Dr Jon Slate (j.slate@sheffield.ac.uk)


Dr Stan Boutin, University of Alberta, Canada

Dr Andrew McAdam, Univeristy of Alberta, Canada (current address: University of California, Santa Cruz, USA)

Other personnel involved in the project

Corey Davis, University of Alberta, Canada

Jeff Lane, University of Alberta, Canada

Dr Deborah Dawson (d.a.dawson@sheffield.ac.uk)

Robert Buckland, University of Sheffield

This project is funded by the Natural Environmental Research Council (http://www.nerc.ac.uk/)

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