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GeneMig – Genetic variation and species migration under environmental change


Views of science, environmental management, and the general public


Project aims

GeneMig is an inter- and transdisciplinary research project that brings together social sciences, basic science and applied conservation management to assess societal and environmental challenges associated with migration of species and their genes in a changing climate and environment. GeneMig uses the expertise of WSL, ETHZ and EAWAG teams to address the following main aims: (1) identification of the public awareness of risks and challenges related to species migration under environmental change; (2) analysis of species migration, gene flow and genetic adaptation in relation to a changing environment by combining genetic methods with landscape modelling; (3) involvement of stakeholders (conservation managers, practitioners, decision-makers) in taking informed decisions for a scientific target; (4) identification of the stakeholders' attitude on conservation genetic research.

Project structure

GeneMig is structured into five scientific modules. Modules G1-4 are biological modules based on molecular genetic methods, which aim at linking functional (genetic) connectivity with structural landscape connectivity. The social scientific Module S assess public attitudes and coping strategies towards species migration and its risks in the context of environmental change. It delivers knowledge about whether people care about consequences of environmental change, e.g., species range shifts and likely associated risks, and the perceived importance of endangered or problem-causing (e.g. invasive) species. Further Module S assesses the stakeholders’ acceptance and knowledge of and expectations on genetic research in the context of nature conservation and the influence the GeneMig project might have on these attitudes and expectations.

Main research questions (Module S)

Genetic diversity:

  • What is the public awareness of (threats to) genetic diversity?

Species migration:

  • What is the public knowledge of selected invasive neophytes?
  • Does the public approve of eradication measures of neophytes and if so, are ecological or economic damages the stronger motives?
  • What is the willingness to pay (WTP) for eradication measures of neophytes?
  • What are the differences in knowledge, attitudes and WTP between the general public and experts?

Stakeholder survey:

  • What are practitioners’ expectations of and attitudes towards genetic research in the context of nature conservation?

Methods (Module S)

In an inductive research phase the relevant basic knowledge will be explored in conducting expert interviews with stakeholders. Based on the findings of the inductive phase a standardised questionnaire will be developed in the following deductive research phase. This questionnaire will be applied in a swiss-wide survey to collect representative quantitative data on public attitudes towards environmental-changed induced species migration. A third research phase has an experimental approach: the effect of a GeneMig workshop on the stakeholders’ attitudes and expectations on genetic research in the context of nature conservation will be tested by conducting questionnaire surveys prior and after the workshop.


  • Bolliger, J., Junge, X., Vaupel, A., Gugerli, F., 2013: Wissenschaft und Praxis im Dialog über Landschaftsgenetik. N+L inside 1/13: 16–19.