San Diego Management & Monitoring Program


Conservation Genetics of the Bell’s Vireo

February 16, 2016 18:00pm to February 16, 2016 19:00pm

Hoffman Room, The San Diego Foundation – Tuesday, February 16, 2016 at 6:00 p.m.

Presented by Professor Kevin J. Burns, Department of Biology, San Diego State University.

The Bell’s Vireo is a species of conservation concern throughout its US range. In California, the subspecies known as Least Bell’s Vireo (Vireo belli pusillus) is listed as state and federally endangered. In other parts of the Bell’s Vireo range, the species has also been listed by various state agencies, and it is identified as a high priority conservation target by the Audubon Society’s “Red Watchlist”. Despite the conservation concern surrounding the Bell’s Vireo, no previous study has assessed genetic variation within the species, and current subspecies designations are based on qualitative morphological descriptions made in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Therefore, we undertook a genetic study of the species, with a particular focus on the Least Bell’s Vireo. In this talk, results of this study (some surprising and some expected) will be presented. Some questions we addressed include: Is the Least Bell’s Vireo genetically distinct?, Do the current subspecies correspond to genetic breaks?, and How does the genetic history of the species correspond to past climate niche models? This study formed the MS thesis of former Burns lab student Luke Klicka and was done in collaboration with Barbara Kus of the USGS Western Ecology Research Center.