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Date of Award


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Forest Molecular Genetics and Biotechnology (MS)

College, School or Department Name

School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science

First Advisor

Oliver Gailing


María Rosario García-Gil


As foundational species, oaks (Quercus : Fagaceae) support the activities of both humans and wildlife. However, many oaks in North America are declining, a crisis exacerbated by the previous disappearance of other hard mast-producing trees. In addition, the economic demands placed on this drought-tolerant group may intensify if climate change extirpates other, relatively mesophytic species. Genetic tools can help address these management challenges. To this end, we developed a suite of 27 microsatellite markers, of which 22 are derived from expressed sequence tags (ESTs). Many of these markers bear significant homology to known genes and may be able to directly assay functional genetic variation. Markers obtained from enriched microsatellite libraries, on the other hand, are typically located in heterochromatic regions and should reflect demographic processes. Considered jointly, genic and genomic microsatellites can elucidate patterns of gene-flow and natural selection, which are fundamental to both an organism's evolutionary ecology and conservation biology. To this end, we employed the developed markers in an FST-based genome scan to detect the signature of divergent selection among the red oaks (Quercus section Lobatae). Three candidate genes with putative roles in stress responses demonstrated patterns of diversity consistent with adaptation to heterogeneous selective pressures. These genes may be important in both local genetic adaptation within species and divergence among them. Next, we used an isolation-with-migration model to quantify levels of gene-flow among four red oaks species during speciation. Both speciation in allopatry and speciation with gene-flow were found to be major drivers of red oak biodiversity. Loci playing a key role in speciation are also likely to be ecologically important within species