Mojave desert tortoise

With funding from the state of California and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, we are developing a radical new genomic toolkit to learn more about how desert tortoises use their habitat and how to avoid conflicts with green energy projects in the Mojave Desert. We will learn more about where they go, how they traverse the complex soils, vegetation types and topography of the desert, and how tortoises and their genes flow across the desert. By using a genomic approach, we can study literally thousands of genes scattered across the tortoise’s genome to learn, in great detail, how they move and what corridors they prefer in key areas of the desert. Our goal is then to predict, using landscape genetic models, the impact of alternative placements of solar installations on habitat connectivity from a tortoise perspective. Some placements may isolate and fragment the habitat much more than others, and our landscape genomic work should provide quantitative estimates of those effects, projected forward over the next 50 years or more.