• Many of the methods used in molecular ecology are relevant to other areas of research. As a result, interdisciplinary collaborations are becoming increasingly common between molecular ecology and a range of academic and applied fields that include epidemiology, agriculture, forensic science and fisheries.
• Molecular ecology and wildlife forensics overlap in a number of ways. If sufficiently variable markers and population allele frequency data are available, blood or tissue samples can be matched to carcasses in cases of suspected poaching. Assignment tests may enable us to identify which population a carcass or sample originated from.
• Species-specific markers, usually sequence data, can be used in poaching cases, although their use is probably more widespread in cases of illegal trafficking. By amplifying DNA from a marketable item such as food or traditional Chinese medicine, we can determine whether or not it includes material from an endangered species.
• Phylogeographic analyses can help us to identify the source and subsequent dispersal patterns of pests and pathogens. Species- or strain-specific markers can help to resolve some law enforcement issues that are relevant to agriculture, and the quantification of gene flow between genetically modified crops and their wild relatives is an important part of the risk assessments that are done on GM crops.
• High-throughput PCR analyses have shown that estimates of fish census population sizes may be inaccurate when based on eggs, because these can often be assigned to the wrong species when identifications are based solely on morphology.
• Estimates of Ne have shown that, even if census population sizes are accurate, they can be extremely poor predictors of the long-term viability of fish populations; as a result, biologists now believe that a depletion in genetic diversity may be contributing to the decline of at least some fish stocks.
• Stock enhancement programmes are sometimes used to slow or reverse the decline of fish populations, and their efficacy can be evaluated through the genetic identification and survival estimates of wild versus hatchery-reared fish and their offspring.
• Although molecular ecology is a relatively young discipline, it already has an impressive list of accomplishments. These will undoubtedly grow in the near future as increasingly precise molecular markers continue to be developed, and as biologists move towards using markers that have a known genetic function.
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