YaleEnvironment360 covers the unknowns and opportunities presented by genetic engineering in the field of conservation.
Gene drive opens up new opportunities in many different fields. In a recent article in YaleEnvironment360, award-winning writer Richard Conniff delves into a potential application of gene drive for conservation. Gene drive could help conservationists prevent extinctions of seabirds and island species.
Invasive rodents have significant negative impacts on island biodiversity. Projects to remove invasive rodents from islands are very complex and challenging. Current tools available for conservation intervention restrict professionals to a suite of islands home to less than 15% of the Critically Endangered and Endangered island species that need protection.
The Genetic Biocontrol of Invasive Rodents (GBIRd) partnership is collaboratively developing and evaluating gene-drive technology for rodents. The partnership is engaged in research to find out if gene drives could influence a mouse population to self-eliminate by becoming 100% male or 100% female. Island Conservation Director of Communications Heath Packard said:
We are committed to a precautionary step-wise approach, with plenty of off-ramps, if it turns out to be too risky or not ethical.
Research is under way, though implementation would not be expected to take place for about ten years. Dr. Kent Redford, conservation consultant and research scientist said:
[With…changes taking place all around them,] Conservationists absolutely must engage with the synthetic biology community, and if we don’t do so it will be at our peril.
- Island Conservation’s Board Resolution for the Genetic Biocontrol of Invasive Rodents Partnership - December 6, 2018
- Wisdom and Akeakamai Return to Midway for Another Nesting Season - December 5, 2018
- Event: Biological Control and Invasive Species Management Workshop - November 28, 2018
- Island Conservation Joins the Global Island Partnership - November 20, 2018
- Global Island Partnership Presents The Wealth of Islands: Bright Spots in Island Implementation - November 15, 2018
- Open Letter: Research on Gene Drive Technology can Benefit Conservation and Public Health - November 14, 2018
- The Economist Features Island Conservation in “The Promise and Peril of Gene Drives” - November 13, 2018
- Reflecting on 25 Years of Impact and the Next Frontier of Island Restoration - November 13, 2018
- Conservation Intervention Gives the Yelkouan Shearwater a Chance to Thrive on Tavolara Island, Italy - November 8, 2018
- Island Conservation and Partners Present: Beyond Biodiversity - November 6, 2018