New DNA Mapping Technique Could Help Preserve Fish Populations

As Texas Parks and Wildlife is considering reducing bag limits for sport fish in hopes of sustaining fish populations, a new DNA mapping technique at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi might also help to do just that.

The process, called ezRAD, allows labs to easily map the genetic structure of the thousands of species in our area.

"Basically, before -- about five years ago -- we were riding on bicycles, and now we're riding in cars," said Jonathan Puritz, a post-doctoral research associate at TAMUCC's Harte Research Institute. "And that's how much the sequence technology has taken off."

The new technique provides more information than previous techniques at a lower cost, and researchers at TAMUCC's Harte Research Institute hope that information can be used to help sustain populations and conserve natural resources.

"It allows us to identify impacts of natural selection and human impacts on natural populations, and with that information, allows us to advise managers on what things are the most important to manage in terms of making fisheries sustainable or helping conserve a particular natural resource," said Christopher Bird, assistant professor at TAMUCC. "It's our hope that, using this next generation sequencing technique, that we'd be able to inform managers in such a way that they could manage the populations to prevent declines in fisheries' yield, increase fisheries' yield, increase fishermen's take, and at the same time preserve the population so that it will be sustainable for generations."

Not only does the new ezRAD technique provide more information at lower cost, but it will allow TAMUCC to bring in some new revenue.

"This also has the added benefit that we can set up the core lab here at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi to do the sequencing for other laboratories, so it enables us to bring in some revenue to the university and also establish a lot of different collaborations between us and other researchers and natural resource managers," Puritz said.

It's an innovation that could immediately prove beneficial to TAMUCC, and once put into practice, could help researchers keep track of and preserve the Coastal Bend environment and all of our local species.


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