John has published over 180 papers in peer-reviewed scientific journals. His research interests focus on genetic mutations and how they are produced and transmitted in individuals, populations, species and the evolutionary processes that affect genetic change. The objectives of his research program are to understand genetic processes that act at the levels of populations and species and to apply this knowledge to the conservation and management of natural resources. Studies of the genotoxic effects of environmental mutagens using a combination of cytogenetic, flow cytometric, and molecular analyses are being conducted in the Republic of Azerbaijan as well as several localities in the US, including Superfund Sites. Species of particular concern in these studies included frogs, tree swallows, house mice, turtles, and mosquitofish. In these projects contaminant effects are compared at various levels of organization, from the individual to the population.
A second project focuses on the genetics, evolution, and conservation of the endangered Steller sea lion. We hypothesized that a third distinct population or stock exists in this species. The endangered western stock was divided into two groups which has important implications for the conservation and management of this species. This project is funded by NOAA.
A third project investigates the genetic status of the Bering Sea-Chukchi Sea-Beaufort Sea stock (BCBS) of bowhead whales that is subject of an aboriginal harvest by Alaskan natives. The purpose is to examine genetic structure and to document diversity levels. We developed an extensive panel of microsatellite loci and conducted an exhaustive analysis of population structure with nuclear loci. In addition, part of my duties regarding this project is to serve as a member of the US Delegation to the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission. These studies are funded by the North Slope Borough.
A fourth study investigates the molecular systematics of bats. This project is part of a multi-institutional NSF grant (EF0629849) headed by the American Museum of Natural History called “ATOL Collaborative Research: Resolving Mammalian Phylogeny with Genomic and Morphological Approaches.” The main focus of John’s research in this area includes the molecular evolution of vespertilionid bats which stems from his doctoral dissertation work.
John’s research projects are having positive effects in the management and conservation of Steller sea lions and bowhead whales, contributing to our understanding of the effects of contaminants on wildlife populations, and are helping to improve the environment in Azerbaijan. The recognition of three genetically differentiated stocks of Steller sea lions is now a central issue being addressed by the Recovery Team and it will certainly impact the final report of the team. The previous demonstration of two stocks in Alaskan waters led to the listing of the western stock as endangered in 1997. John’s studies of stock structure and genetic variability in bowhead whales have beneficially impacted the native harvest at Barrow, Alaska. And, John’s studies of the genetics of wildlife populations in contaminated environments has led to an awareness of effects not previously imagined. His work in Azerbaijan is now revealing the scope of the problem of contamination from the greatest concentration of chemical factories left behind by the Former Soviet Union.
Research Group - Genetics
Facilities - Genetics Lab
Related Centers - Center for the Environment