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California Conservation Genomics Project featured in The Mercury News

What 19,500 genomes say about California’s wildlife

By building a dataset of nearly 20,000 different genomes – representing carefully selected species from the dry Mojave Desert to the snow-capped Sierra Nevada mountains – the California Conservation Genomics Project will create a unique map of the state, providing leaders with current scientific data and analyses to help them make decisions about land use and conservation.

At a time of rapidly accelerating species decline, the map will reveal hotspots of diversity, which could serve as reservoirs of genetic variation to help species adapt to environmental change, said director Brad Shaffer of the UC Los Angeles La Kretz Center for California Conservation Science, who leads the effort’s 79 scientists. It could identify special landscape corridors, where creatures need to connect.

“We protect pretty places,” Shaffer said. “We may not be protecting the most biologically important places.”

Visit the CCGP website to learn more about the $12 million state-funded project.