[dropcap4 color="green"]I[/dropcap4]ce seals in the North Atlantic are subjected to the selective forces of both climate and commercial harvest. Our lab is developing molecular methods to assess how the genetic diversity of harp and hooded seals may be effected by these forces. In particular, we are currently in the process of developing a set of molecular methods for genetic analyses of harp and hooded seal tissues using resources in the new Marine Conservation Molecular Facility (MCMF) at the Duke Marine Lab. The results of the initial genetic analyses of stranded animal samples will set the stage for future analyses such as:
- Understanding population identity of stranded animals with advanced molecular markers, including potential fine-scale discrimination within breeding regions.
- Examining selective effects of hunts and climate change on seals. Recent research has revealed that harvests are amongst the most powerful selective agents acting on exploited populations of animals. Exploited ice seals are subject to human and climate as selective forces, yet nothing is known about how this combination will affect long-term population viability.
- Developing rapid methods to extract and assess DNA from commercial seal products in trade for species composition information and mark/recapture analyses for market details. Recent studies of whale meat have provided important information regarding the presence of protected whales in markets in Asia. Furthermore, genetic analyses and mark/recapture techniques now can provide information on the persistence of whale meat in markets. Such data permit scientists to track how long individuals remain for sale on the market and can be useful to illustrate independently the demand for animal products.