Genomics can answer a diversity of critical questions that need to be addressed before acting to conserve amphibians. Learn about some of the main types of conservation genomic research conducted by AmphibiaGen below. 

Taxonomy and conservation units

Species must be discovered and described before they can be conserved, yet many amphibian species remain unknown to science, especially in the tropics, but even in relatively well-studied regions like North America. Delineating conservation units within species is also essential for tracking the status of populations and implementing actions to conserve them. We delineate amphibian species and populations using genomics in combination with other phenotypic (for example, morphology and calls) and ecological data. 

Photo by Rémi PJG Pattyn


Maintaining and restoring connectivity among populations is an important strategy for conserving imperiled populations. We quantify gene flow and identify natural and human-made landscape features that facilitate and impede connectivity in amphibians using analyses from the burgeoning field of neutral landscape genomics. 

Evolutionary potential and climate change

Populations must evolve to persist in the face of climate change and other rapid environmental change. Quantifying evolutionary potential is challenging, but genomic data and new adaptive landscape genomic analyses provide exciting opportunities to quantify adaptive variation in natural populations that we are currently applying in amphibians.  

Genetic variation and effective population size

Genetic variation is the raw material for evolution. The genetic effective size of a population determines the rate at which genetic variation is lost, and is often smaller than observed population sizes. Our research characterizing the amount and spatial distribution of genetic variation and the effective sizes of populations lays the foundation for all of the other genomic research we conduct to guide amphibian conservation.  

Inbreeding depression and genetic rescue

Offspring produced by closely related parents almost universally have reduced fitness, known as “inbreeding depression.” Fortunately, something can be done to combat inbreeding depression in small and declining populations: genetic rescue, which is an increase in population size caused by an infusion of new genetic variation from immigrants. Genetic rescue is an increasingly important conservation tool in an increasingly fragmented world. We use genomics to test for inbreeding depression in amphibians, and to inform the best strategies for implementing genetic rescue.  

Photo by Rémi PJG Pattyn

Photo by Rémi PJG Pattyn

Disease dynamics

Disease is ravaging amphibian populations across the globe, particularly the amphibian fungal disease known as “Bd” for short. We use genomics to identify amphibian populations infected with Bd, as well as individuals and populations that are resistant to it that could be translocated to vulnerable populations to increase resistance.  

Genetic monitoring

The only way to make sure that populations maintain the genetic variation they need to evolve and persist is by monitoring this variation over time. More and more countries recognize the critical importance of genetic variation. The post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework of the Convention on Biological Diversity now includes the goal that “The genetic diversity within populations of wild and domesticated species is maintained, safeguarding their adaptive potential.” We make sure this goal is met for amphibians by monitoring genetic variation of representative species and populations over time.   


The exciting new field of macrogenetics combines genetic data from many species over whole continents or the entire globe to uncover the natural and human factors that shape genetic variation. This can point to groups of species or regions of the world that are vulnerable to extinction due to loss of genetic variation. Once we have amassed genomic data from many amphibian species, we will use a macrogenetics approach to look for common patterns of genetic variation across real-world landscapes to guide conservation.