Fish and wildlife managers are faced with the daunting task of making informed and sensible decisions in the face of conflicting objectives and rapid environmental change. Conservation genomics – the use of new genomic techniques and genome-wide information to solve biological conservation problems – is an emerging scientific field that holds much promise in delivering practical knowledge to inform decisions, policies, and practices for conservation and management. However, the impact of genomics on conservation and management has been rather limited to date, described as the “conservation genomics gap”. We set out to identify perceived benefits and existing barriers supporting or limiting the use of conservation genomics in conservation practice by analyzing how potential knowledge users (conservation practitioners) perceive and evaluate genomics using the case of managed Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) fisheries in the Canadian province of British Columbia. We interviewed 33 government employees and 32 representatives from nongovernmental stakeholder groups involved in fisheries management. We found that very few knowledge users were familiar with genomics or understood the difference between genetics and genomics. Despite low genomics familiarity, respondents generally view conservation genomics favorably, as a reliable and promising tool that could provide them with novel knowledge that would help them improve management or make better decisions. However, the exact benefits or outcomes genomics could provide in applied contexts are potentially limited by politics, communication, expertise, interpretation, cost, competing conservation practices, and time. Our research suggests that genomics has considerable potential in applied conservation and management if clearer communication between researchers and practitioners is achieved. We recommend genomic researchers and funding agencies identify wide-ranging practitioners and instate knowledge and sharing interfaces at project outset focused on practitioner objectives and improving practitioner knowledge and familiarity.

, , , , ,
Biological Conservation
Department of Biology

Kadykalo, A.N. (Andrew N.), Cooke, S.J, & Young, N. (Nathan). (2019). Conservation genomics from a practitioner lens: Evaluating the research-implementation gap in a managed freshwater fishery. Biological Conservation. doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2019.108350