The Epps Population Genetics Laboratory, located at Oregon State University, accepts contract work to analyze genetic samples for wildlife managers and researchers. Since 2009 we have completed genetic studies or analyses of many species, including bighorn sheep, blacktailed and mule deer, giraffe, various African antelope species, American beaver, pika, moose, and marbled murrelets. New collaborations for 2018 will also see us transitioning into genetic work on bumble bees, bobcats, and bats. We are always open to new collaborations with agencies, tribal and nongovernmental organizations, and researchers at other institutions.
We have experience conducting many types of genetic studies, some of which are listed below. We can assist in developing sampling schemes and analytical frameworks to best answer these types of questions:
1) Spatial mark-recapture estimates of population size
For each species we identify microsatellite markers that are variable within the target population(s) and that provide enough power to reliably discriminate individuals. We match samples collected from the same individual, identify the total number of unique individuals sampled, and provide sex ratio estimates. Current or recent projects have been undertaken either as full research collaborations or as contracted work where only genetic data and analyses are provided.
2) Genetic identification of sex in sexually monomorphic species or from noninvasively collected samples
In studies where the species of interest is sexually monomorphic or samples are collected noninvasively, we are able to determine through genetic methods the sex of individuals. We have extensive experience conducting these tests in ungulates (e.g., bighorn sheep, blacktailed deer, impala, greater kudu, and dik dik antelope) and also in birds (marbled murrelets).
3) Investigations of connectivity and gene flow in complex landscapes
A main focus of the Epps research group is the influence of landscape features on gene flow and connectivity (i.e., landscape genetics). Population genetic data can help inform decisions regarding reintroduction or translocation of wildlife, mitigation of disease outbreaks, and other important issues.
4) Species identification
In some cases, even the species identity of the sample is in question. We have helped to determine the origin of dried meat samples, corroborated species identification for a variety of fecal studies, and have identified remains of prey items.
5) Identification of novel microsatellite loci for understudied species
Provided that a published genome or draft genome is available, we have biocomputing resources to identify regions that might have microsatellite loci suitable for population genetic analysis. We have identified the first variable microsatellite markers for aardvark, and are currently working to design additional markers for the American beaver.
6) SNP genomic analysis
We have experience conducting 2bRAD genomic analyses and the associated biocomputing pipelines to investigate genetic variability and infer parentage. This method requires very high quality samples (tissue or blood) but may provide a more detailed picture of genetic structure, relatedness, or association with phenotypic variation in some cases.
We accept various types of samples, including feces, blood, tissue, FTA cards, and hair. Because amplification success can depend greatly on the method of collection, we recommend that potential clients contact us before completing field work to discuss options for a pilot study to verify DNA quality. All samples will be returned at the end of the study, or can be disposed of by us if that is preferred.
Cost of sample processing
Cost depends on the type of sample (higher quality sample types like blood and tissue are less expensive than feces and hair) and the number of microsatellite markers or sequence fragments required to answer the question of interest. We can operate on a fee-per-sample basis, or set up an official contract; which strategy is appropriate will depend on the nature of the work and the extent of collaborative involvement.
Turnaround time for a project depends on the scope of the work, the number of projects that we have in the queue at that time, and the novelty of the sample type/technique to our lab members (i.e., amount of optimization required). Contact us at the information listed below to see when we might be able to get started.
If you are interested in submitting samples or getting an estimate of costs for genetic analysis, please contact us:
Clinton Epps – Lab Principal Investigator – 541 737 2478
Rachel Crowhurst – Population Genetics Lab Manager – 541 737 6035