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Cracking the genetic code of Washington’s eelgrass

In the Pacific Northwest, eelgrass serves an important function in the ecosystem by binding sediments, storing carbon, and providing essential habitat for Pacific herring, juvenile salmon, and many other species. Concerningly, eelgrass populations are susceptible to human impacts related to water quality changes or direct disturbance. Eelgrass mitigation and restoration strategies often result in plants being transplanted to new locations where eelgrass may already be present. However, these efforts often lack information on the genetic population structure in an ever-changing environment. A team of interdisciplinary researchers at the University of Washington is developing baseline data for native eelgrass to make the first comprehensive geographic map of state eelgrass population structure and describe the relationship between eelgrass population structure, phenotypic diversity, and local adaptation and resistance to environmental stressors.

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