Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Arizona
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Arizona Project

Conservation status and genetic management of imperiled species along the US-Mexico border

January 2018 - June 2018


Participating Agencies

  • CAZ-Mex (University of Arizona, US and CONACyT, Mexico)

Freshwater habitats are extremely rare in the Sonoran Desert, yet they support endemic species, including the Sonoyta pupfish (Cyprinodon eremus) and mud turtle (Kinosternon sonoriense longifemorale) restricted to Quitobaquito spring and pond (Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument) and small reaches of the Río Sonoyta (Sonora, Mexico) along the international border. There is immense conservation concern for these species due to many human and drought related risk factors, however, refuge populations were established without considering the genetic variation and structure of source populations. This lack of genetic consideration could hamper reintroduction efforts if maladapted or genetically bottlenecked refuge populations were used to restock natural habitats. Our project will determine genetic connectivity, assess population viability within natural and refuge populations (e.g. genetic bottlenecking and inbreeding), and quantify how genetically representative the refuge populations are of the natural populations. PIs will work together on both sides of the border and engage in collaborative efforts with U.S. National Park Service staff, CONANP staff, non-profit NGOs, and local communities that maintain refuge populations. The PIs will also produce a genetic management plan to assist recovery for both species. Additionally, this project includes capacity building for Mexican researchers via bioinformatics trainings at the University of Arizona.