Revive & Restore, a nonprofit devoted to supporting the application of genomic data in conservation biology, funded the Yoder Lab’s sequencing of 300 Joshua tree genomes in a “genomic inventory” of the species as part of their Wild Genomes initiative. In the spring of 2021, Yoder Lab members fanned out across the Mojave Desert to collect leaf tissue from trees in every place they grow, and over the following summer and fall grad student Cate MacGregor extracted DNA and prepared 300 “libraries” for shallow whole-genome sequencing. That dataset is now under analysis by postdoctoral researcher Lea Richardson, and Revive & Restore has profiled the genomic inventory, and our hopes for its applications, on their website.
The Joshua tree (Yucca brevifolia) is a cultural icon and an ecological keystone of the Mojave Desert. The trees occupy challenging drought and temperature regimes across the Mojave. However, climate projections broadly agree that increasing temperatures and shifting rainfall will render most of the Joshua tree’s current range unsuitable by the end of this century.
Professor Jeremy Yoder at California State University-Northridge has spent his career studying the unique ecology and evolution of Joshua trees across their range. Recently, his work pivoted to the species’ vulnerabilities to climate change and, more importantly, the genetic potential for adaptation.
Check out the full profile, which has lots of pretty photos of Joshua trees, on the Revive & Restore website.