WESTWOOD—UCLA scientists are leading the new California Conservation Genomics Project, a $10 million project funded by the state to assist California state officials in making ecologically wise decisions to combat the effects of climate change. The project includes conservation biologists, geneticists, ecologists and climate scientists from all 10 University of California campuses, as well as officials from state and federal regulatory agencies and nongovernment agencies.

Bradley Shaffer, a UCLA distinguished professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and director of UCLA’s LA Kretz Center for California Conservation Science, is leading the project.

“Climate change is happening right now and is altering our ecosystems at an unprecedented rate, threatening plants, animals and their habitats…We’re already seeing dramatic changes in terms of drought fire and temperature extremes and they have enormous impacts,” said Shaffer in a statement.

The project aims to provide state officials with current scientific data so they can make informed decisions about conserving state species and habitats, protect natural resources, and the California population and wildlife from the effects of climate change. Geneticists are instrumental to this project since their study of endangered species DNA, as well as the DNA of invasive plants and animals who threaten the region will help engineer methods of protecting endangered species and eradicating or controlling species that are invasive.

“We will apply state of the art techniques to California’s most pressing conservation problems and provide government agencies with the best scientific data to make informed decisions as California’s climate continues to undergo rapid change,” said Shaffer.

Shaffer explained that the project will disseminate the information founded by the study to the state by producing annual reports, hosting workshops, as well as developing a website with genomic databases that identify the locations of vulnerable species and habitats in the state.

The California Conservation Genomics Project is in collaboration with the UCLA LA Grand Challenge, a project through UCLA that is developing technologies, policies and strategies to transition LA to 100 percent renewable energy and local water by 2050, and is based in the LA Kretz Center and UCLA Institute of Environment and Sustainability. The project will run through 2022 or 2023.