Welcome to the website of the pilot study for monitoring genetic diversity in Switzerland. A 3-year project (2020 – 2023) that will test the feasibility of a possible future monitoring of the genetic diversity of plant, fungal and animal species in Switzerland.

The project is supported by the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) and is carried out by the Chair of Plant Ecological Genetics of the Department of Environmental Systems Sciences at the ETH Zurich in collaboration with the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL).


Stakeholder manuscript published

The Swiss-wide stakeholder survey, which was conducted as part of the feasibility study for a genetic diversity monitoring, has now been published in the journal Conservation Genetics! The paper is publicly accessible via this link: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10592-021-01379-6

Retrospective Analyses 

For the retrospective analysis, more than 700 voucher specimens were found for the Hare’s-tail cottongrass and more than 1,000 for the False heath fritillary in collections in Switzerland – from Geneva to Basel. Where not already done, each specimen was entered into a database and the location was recorded and georeferenced using the original label. In a next step, a selection of the vouchers will now be made. A report on part of our research on collection specimens of the False heath fritillary has just been written and published in the ETH journal GLOBE: https://ethz.ch/en/news-and-events/eth-news/news/2021/06/silent-witnesses.html

False heath fritillary, Melitaea diamina, in the Entomological Collection Zurich.
False heath fritillary, Melitaea diamina, from the Entomological Collection Zurich. © Martin C. Fischer

Sampling has started

The fieldwork season began this spring. The teams of the Swiss Ornithological Institute started earliest at the beginning of April in Ticino and Graubünden. Since then, 117 yellowhammers have been caught, sampled and released throughout Switzerland. Breeding calls of natterjack toads began at the end of April, a sign for which the staff of the karch had been waiting to begin sampling. However, the search for natterjack toad populations at the planned collection sites have not always been successful and often the collection sites planned as reserves needed to be used. This was due to characteristics of the natterjack toad’s pioneer habitat, which is composed primarily of temporary pools in gravel pits and floodplains, which are not stable long-term. The input of the karch staff, with their knowledge of local natterjack toad spawning areas and ecology, has been invaluable. Thanks to them, spawning areas that are no longer active could be removed from the list of collection sites in advance, and new collection sites could be recorded where necessary. Sampling of the populations of the Carthusian pink and the Hare’s-tail cottongrass has also started. Lastly, depending on the weather, sampling of the False heath fritillary will soon begin. We are curious to see what challenges this particular sampling holds for our experts.

Pond where natterjack toad spawn was found. Foto: Jérôme Pellet
In this pond on the site of a gravel pit, the search for natterjack toad spawn was successful. This illustrates the very special pioneer habitats of the natterjack toad. © Jérôme Pellet

Assembly of reference genomes

High-molecular DNA is extracted from samples of a single individual of each of the five species, and the entire genome is sequenced using the latest “long read sequencing method” (PacBio Sequel II; HiFi reads). These long DNA fragments are necessary so that the whole genome can be assembled as accurately and completely as possible. The newly assembled genomes for each species then serve as reference genomes and are the basis for further genetic analyses. They represent a kind of template, whereas the extracted and sequenced DNA segments of each individual are compared and genetic variations are detected. As the assembly of the reference genomes is a complicated and complex process, various specialists are involved.

Older contributions are stored in the archive.