Introduction to Conservation Genetics

R. Frankham, J.D. Ballou + D.A. Briscoe

Cambridge University Press 2002
A book review by Danny Yee © 2005
A nicely presented undergraduate text, Introduction to Conservation Genetics will also suit a broader audience.

Section one covers some basic evolutionary genetics, focusing on topics such as genetic diversity which are central to conservation and omitting topics such as game theory. This material could be skipped by those who have previously studied genetics, but I found it a useful refresher.

Section two turns to more specialised material, in particular the effects of population size reduction. It covers loss of genetic diversity, inbreeding and inbreeding depression, population fragmentation, and attempts to define the notion of a genetically viable population. These are addressed with conservation issues in mind, and illustrated with examples from endangered species and conservation studies, but I found the approach also offered new perspective on familiar concepts from general evolutionary genetics.

Section three looks at applications: taxonomy and management units, the management of wild and captive populations, reintroductions, forensics, and the place of genetics in broader population viability analyses.

Introduction to Conservation Genetics is a textbook designed for use by undergraduates, either with or without a preceding genetics course. Each chapter comes with a summary and exercises (with answers provided in an appendix), key points are highlighted in the margin, and so forth. None of this intrudes much, however, though one chapter is broken into two to make units more suitably sized for lectures.

The explanations are clear and straightforward, with diagrams used effectively, and there are plenty of illustrative examples. A nice touch is the appearance in the margin of line drawings of the animals and plants that are mentioned in the text: these help remind the reader of the organisms behind the genetic abstractions.

It's a textbook students should find easy to learn from, but I recommend the Introduction to Conservation Genetics to anyone with an involvement with conservation biology, from professionals to merely curious lay readers. The only mathematics assumed is basic statistics and elementary algebra, while pretty much all necessary background genetics is explained. (For those not up to this, or wanting something more concise, there's a shorter Primer of Conservation Genetics by the same authors.)

November 2005

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%T Introduction to Conservation Genetics
%A Frankham, R.
%A Ballou, J.D.
%A Briscoe, D.A.
%I Cambridge University Press
%D 2002
%O paperback, exercises, answers, references, index
%G ISBN 0521639859
%P 617pp