Biography

Dr. Cornelya F. C. Klütsch works at the interface of molecular ecology, genomics, and conservation. Her main research interests include the use of genetic and genomic tools to address applied and basic conservation, management, and eco-evolutionary questions in wildlife and fish species. Currently, she is a Research Scientist at the Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research (NIBIO, Norway) where she works in a transnational, interdisciplinary, and inter-sectorial framework on local, regional, and international conservation issues in (sub)arctic environments. This includes a wide range of topics and systems including population genetic and wildlife forensic analyses of large carnivores (e.g., lynx and brown bear) and freshwater species (e.g., brown trout, freshwater mussels). Further, she is interested in the development of eDNA and metabarcoding approaches as tools for environmental research and monitoring of soil and freshwater biota. Recently, Cornelya expanded her horizons and works now more intensely on the integration of citizen science and ecosystem service assessments into research and conservation management. Finally, she continues teaching within the Edu-Arctic and INTERACT projects with the aim of bringing molecular ecological topics into the classroom (i.e., STEM education). With this broad approach, she hopes to contribute to the development of a sustainable society and green and blue bioeconomies.

Previous positions/education:

Postdoctoral research position and sessional lecturer at Trent University (Ontario, Canada).

Postdoctoral research position at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm (Sweden)

PhD at the Alexander Koenig Research Museum and the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms University in Bonn (Germany)

Master’s degree in zoology at the Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg (Germany)

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Abstract

Conservation and management of large carnivores requires knowledge of female and male dispersal. Such information is crucial to evaluate the population’s status and thus manage ment actions. This knowledge is challenging to obtain, often incomplete and contradictory at times. The size of the target population and the methods applied can bias the results. Also, population history and biological or environmental influences can affect dispersal on differ ent scales within a study area. We have genotyped Eurasian lynx (180 males and 102 females, collected 2003–2017) continuously distributed in southern Finland (~23,000 km2 ) using 21 short tandem repeats (STR) loci and compared statistical genetic tests to infer local and sex-specific dispersal patterns within and across genetic clusters as well as geo graphic regions. We tested for sex-specific substructure with individual-based Bayesian assignment tests and spatial autocorrelation analyses. Differences between the sexes in genetic differentiation, relatedness, inbreeding, and diversity were analysed using popula tion-based AMOVA, F-statistics, and assignment indices. Our results showed two different genetic clusters that were spatially structured for females but admixed for males. Similarly, spatial autocorrelation and relatedness was significantly higher in females than males. How ever, we found weaker sex-specific patterns for the Eurasian lynx when the data were sepa rated in three geographical regions than when divided in the two genetic clusters. Overall, our results suggest male-biased dispersal and female philopatry for the Eurasian lynx in Southern Finland. The female genetic structuring increased from west to east within our study area. In addition, detection of male-biased dispersal was dependent on analytical methods utilized, on whether subtle underlying genetic structuring was considered or not, and the choice of population delineation. Conclusively, we suggest using multiple genetic approaches to study sex-biased dispersal in a continuously distributed species in which pop ulation delineation is difficult.

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Abstract

Loss of Arctic sea ice owing to climate change is predicted to reduce both genetic diversity and gene flow in ice-dependent species, with potentially negative consequences for their long-term viability. Here, we tested for the population-genetic impacts of reduced sea ice cover on the polar bear (Ursus maritimus) sampled across two decades (1995–2016) from the Svalbard Archipelago, Norway, an area that is affected by rapid sea ice loss in the Arctic Barents Sea. We analysed genetic variation at 22 microsatellite loci for 626 polar bears from four sampling areas within the archipelago. Our results revealed a 3–10% loss of genetic diversity across the study period, accompanied by a near 200% increase in genetic differentiation across regions. These effects may best be explained by a decrease in gene flow caused by habitat fragmentation owing to the loss of sea ice coverage, resulting in increased inbreeding of local polar bears within the focal sampling areas in the Svalbard Archipelago. This study illustrates the importance of genetic monitoring for developing adaptive management strategies for polar bears and other ice-dependent species.

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Abstract

Maintaining standing genetic variation is a challenge in human-dominated landscapes. We used genetic (i.e., 16 short tandem repeats) and morphological (i.e., length and weight) measurements of 593 contemporary and historical brown trout (Salmo trutta) samples to study fine-scale and short-term impacts of different management practices. These had changed from traditional breeding practices, using the same broodstock for several years, to modern breeding practices, including annual broodstock replacement, in the transnational subarctic Pasvik River. Using population genetic structure analyses (i.e., Bayesian assignment tests, DAPCs, and PCAs), four historical genetic clusters (E2001A-D), likely representing family lineages resulting from different crosses, were found in zone E. These groups were characterized by consistently lower genetic diversity, higher within-group relatedness, lower effective population size, and significantly smaller body size than contemporary stocked (E2001E) and wild fish (E2001F). However, even current breeding practices are insufficient to prevent genetic diversity loss and morphological changes as demonstrated by on average smaller body sizes and recent genetic bottleneck signatures in the modern breeding stock compared to wild fish. Conservation management must evaluate breeding protocols for stocking programs and assess if these can preserve remaining natural genetic diversity and morphology in brown trout for long-term preservation of freshwater fauna.

Abstract

The lumpfish Cyclopterus lumpus is commercially exploited in numerous areas of its range in the North Atlantic Ocean, and is important in salmonid aquaculture as a biological agent for controlling sea lice. Despite the economic importance, few genetic resources for downstream applications, such as linkage mapping, parentage analysis, marker-assisted selection (MAS), quantitative trait loci (QTL) analysis, and assessing adaptive genetic diversity are currently available for the species. Here, we identify both genome- and transcriptome-derived microsatellites loci from C. lumpus to facilitate such applications. Across 2,346 genomic contigs, we detected a total of 3,067 microsatellite loci, of which 723 were the most suitable ones for primer design. From 116,555 transcriptomic unigenes, we identified a total of 231,556 microsatellite loci, which may indicate a high coverage of the available STRs. Out of these, primer pairs could only be designed for 6,203 loci. Dinucleotide repeats accounted for 89 percent and 52 percent of the genome- and transcriptome-derived microsatellites, respectively. The genetic composition of the dominant repeat motif types showed differences from other investigated fish species. In the genome-derived microsatellites AC/GT (67.8 percent), followed by AG/CT (15.1 percent) and AT/AT (5.6 percent) were the major motifs. Transcriptome-derived microsatellites showed also most dominantly the AC/GT repeat motif (33 percent), followed by A/T (26.6 percent) and AG/CT (11 percent). Functional annotation of microsatellite-containing transcriptomic sequences showed that the majority of the expressed sequence tags encode proteins involved in cellular and metabolic processes, binding activity and catalytic reactions. Importantly, STRs linked to genes involved in immune system process, growth, locomotion and reproduction were discovered in the present study. The extensive genomic marker information reported here will facilitate molecular ecology studies, conservation initiatives and will benefit many aspects of the breeding programmes of C. lumpus.

Abstract

Knowledge about population genetic structure and dispersal capabilities is important for the development of targeted management strategies for agricultural pest species. The apple fruit moth, Argyresthia conjugella (Lepidoptera, Yponomeutidae), is a pre-dispersal seed predator. Larvae feed on rowanberries (Sorbus aucuparia), and when rowanberry seed production is low (i.e., inter-masting), the moth switches from laying eggs in rowanberries to apples (Malus domestica), resulting in devastating losses in apple crops. Using genetic methods, we investigated if this small moth expresses any local genetic structure, or alternatively if gene flow may be high within the Scandinavian Peninsula (~850.000 km2, 55o - 69o N). Genetic diversity was found to be high (n = 669, mean He = 0.71). For three out of ten tetranucleotide STRs, we detected heterozygote deficiency caused by null alleles, but tests showed little impact on the overall results. Genetic differentiation between the 28 sampling locations was very low (average FST = 0.016, P < 0.000). Surprisingly, we found that all individuals could be assigned to one of two non-geographic genetic clusters, and that a third, geographic cluster was found to be associated with 30% of the sampling locations, with weak but significant signals of isolation-by-distance. Conclusively, our findings suggest wind-aided dispersal and spatial synchrony of both sexes of the apple fruit moth over large areas and across very different climatic zones. We speculate that the species may recently have had two separate genetic origins caused by a genetic bottleneck after inter-masting, followed by rapid dispersal and homogenization of the gene pool across the landscape. We suggest further investigations of spatial genetic similarities and differences of the apple fruit moth at larger geographical scales, through life-stages, across inter-masting, and during attacks by the parasitoid wasp (Microgaster politus).

Abstract

Citizen science can facilitate in‐depth learning for pupils and students, contribute to scientific research, and permit civic participation. Here, we describe the development of the transnational school‐based citizen science project Phenology of the North Calotte. Its primary goal is to introduce pupils (age 12–15; grades 7–10) in northern Norway, Russia, and Finland to the local and global challenges of climate change resulting in life cycle changes at different trophic and ecosystem levels in their backyards. Partnerships between regional scientists and staff from NIBIO Svanhovd, State nature reserves, national parks, and teachers and pupils from regional schools aim to engage pupils in project‐based learning. The project uses standardized protocols, translated into the different languages of participating schools. The phenological observations are centered around documenting clearly defined life cycle phases (e.g., first appearance of species, flowering, ripening, leaf yellowing, snow fall, and melt). The observations are collected either on paper and are subsequently submitted manually to an open‐source online database or submitted directly via a newly developed mobile app. In the long term, the database is anticipated to contribute to research studying changes in phenology at different trophic levels. In principle, guided school‐based citizen science projects have the potential to contribute to increased environmental awareness and education and thereby to transformative learning at the societal level while contributing to scientific progress of understudied biomes, like the northern taiga and (sub)arctic tundra. However, differences in school systems and funding insecurity for some schools have been major prohibiting factors for long‐term retention of pupils/schools in the program. Project‐based and multidisciplinary learning, although pedagogically desired, has been partially difficult to implement in participating schools, pointing to the need of structural changes in national school curricula and funding schemes as well as continuous offers for training and networking for teachers.

Abstract

Habitat discontinuity, anthropogenic disturbance, and overharvesting have led to population fragmentation and decline worldwide. Preservation of remaining natural genetic diversity is crucial to avoid continued genetic erosion. Brown trout (Salmo trutta L.) is an ideal model species for studying anthropogenic influences on genetic integrity, as it has experienced significant genetic alterations throughout its natural distribution range due to habitat fragmentation, overexploitation, translocations, and stocking. The Pasvik River is a subarctic riverine system shared between Norway, Russia, and Finland, subdivided by seven hydroelectric power dams that destroyed about 70% of natural spawning and nursing areas. Stocking is applied in certain river parts to support the natural brown trout population. Adjacent river segments with different management strategies (stocked vs. not stocked) facilitated the simultaneous assessment of genetic impacts of dams and stocking based on analyses of 16 short tandem repeat loci. Dams were expected to increase genetic differentiation between and reduce genetic diversity within river sections. Contrastingly, stocking was predicted to promote genetic homogenization and diversity, but also potentially lead to loss of private alleles and to genetic erosion. Our results showed comparatively low heterozygosity and clear genetic differentiation between adjacent sections in nonstocked river parts, indicating that dams prevent migration and contribute to genetic isolation and loss of genetic diversity. Furthermore, genetic differentiation was low and heterozygosity relatively high across stocked sections. However, in stocked river sections, we found signatures of recent bottlenecks and reductions in private alleles, indicating that only a subset of individuals contributes to reproduction, potentially leading to divergence away from the natural genetic state. Taken together, these results indicate that stocking counteracts the negative fragmentation effects of dams, but also that stocking practices should be planned carefully in order to ensure long‐term preservation of natural genetic diversity and integrity in brown trout and other species in regulated river systems.