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UCLA to Lead $10M Conservation Genomics Project

NEW YORK — The University of California, Los Angeles announced this week that it will lead a large-scale research initiative that will use genomics to study the impact of climate change on California's ecosystems.

The $10 million effort — called the California Conservation Genomics Project — will include scientists from all of the University of California's campuses, as well as from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the Los Alamos National Laboratory, the UC Natural Reserve System, and California State University's campuses. Also participating are officials from state and federal regulatory agencies, and nongovernmental organizations including the Nature Conservancy. It is expected to run through 2022 or 2023.

"The California Conservation Genomics Project will bring together many of the state's leading experts in genomics and conservation science to work in a coordinated manner to provide decision-makers with sound science in their efforts to address the rapidly accelerating species declines resulting from habitat destruction and climate change," UC Davis Professor Harris Lewin said in a statement. 

Among the project's goals are to gather genomic data on soil, vegetation, temperature, and rainfall to better understand the links between genetic variation patterns and specific habitats, and to help build more accurate climate models, UCLA said. The effort also aims to use genetics to identify and control invasive plant and animal species, to identify regions vulnerable to wildfires, and guide decisions on where to build renewable energy infrastructures.

The California Conservation Genomics Project also intends to produce annual reports and host workshops to inform policy decisions, and roll out online genomic databases describing locations of the state's most vulnerable species and habitats.