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Use of genetic techniques to help protect endangered plants and animals

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The wood grouse and the northern crested newt. Two very different animals with one common feature: both are rare in Switzerland and both are threatened with extinction. Determining if and how many individuals are living in a particular area by conventional methods means observing or even capturing the animals. Nowadays, however, their trail can be picked up without dis­turbing them through analysis of their genetic traces, whether that’s wood grouse droppings or a water sample from a pond where a northern crested newt has been. Although genetic techniques open up new possibilities, they are often met with skepticism by conservationists. Natur­schutzgenetik, published this spring by Haupt Verlag, aims to break down these barriers. It provides background information and case studies that demonstrate the value of genetic techniques in conservation. “With this book, we’re hoping to link science together with practice,” says Rolf Holderegger, WSL researcher and co-author of the work. (Lisa Bose, Diagonal 1/16)