National Centre for Biological Sciences
Tigers are emblematic of conservation, and India harbours around 60% of the world’€™s wild tigers. We used genetic data from wild populations in the Indian subcontinent to understand their relatively recent past and current connectivity. We explored population genetic variation in wild tigers and showed that 60-70% of global genetic variation is retained by India tigers, making it a stronghold for their conservation. This is despite a precipitous bottleneck 200 or so years ago as suggested by genetic data. DNA variation from historical skins supports this bottleneck, and also suggests a decrease in connectivity in the last 150 years. Most recently, DNA from 50 wild tigers was used to identify 10,000 polymorphic SNPs. I will share our preliminary results on population structure and how genetic variation is partitioned between populations. I will discuss possible implications of such findings for future conservation. Finally, I will use tigers as a model to ask how technological advances and genomics-based approaches could facilitate species management and survival.
Uma is a molecular ecologist interested in using genetic data to understand biodiversity and inform conservation. She is currently an associate professor at the National Centre for Biological Sciences, TIFR, Bangalore. Her lab has pioneered methods to conduct population monitoring and landscape/population genetics with tiger fecal samples. Recent projects include work on contrasting population structure between commensal and wild rodents, and understanding drivers of diversification in montane bird communities in the Western Ghats. She is currently visiting Stanford University (Biology and CEHG) as a Fulbright fellow. While at Stanford, I am hoping to develop novel methods for genomic analyses with fecal samples.