SUNY ESF professor to help lead study on genetic duck diversity in North America

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SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WWTI) — As professor at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry will help investigate genetic diversity on mallard species across the continent.

Professor Michael Schummer of SUNY ESF will hold the title as a co-principal investigator for the project titled “Genomic and Morphological Consequences of Landscape-Level Hybridization between Wild and Domesticated Congeners,” and focus on the mallard duck species.

The project will focus on ancient DNA techniques o museum species to pinpoint the approximate time that the genetic shift began to occur. ESF will feed wild and domestic mallards various foods, documenting how food is consumed.

“Eastern North American mallard populations are declining,” said Schummer. “We hypothesize that efforts to save the species – raising birds in captivity for ultimate release in wild environs – have actually reduced the genetic diversity of the mallard and caused the population to shrink on the East Coast.”

Schummer is part of a researching team from ESF, The University of Texas El Paso, Mississippi State University, Smithsonian Institute and Illinois Natural History. The group has received nearly $1 million in National Science Foundation funding for the project.

According to ESF, the project will be complete when the Smithsonian uses a 3-D scanner to document the size and shape of 21st century mallards’ bills and compare this data to historic mallard specimens.

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