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Dr. Antoinette J. Piaggio

Dr. Antoinette J. Piaggio,
Research Molecular Biologist

 Dr Antoinette J. Piaggio is employed by the USDA APHIS Wildlife Services, National Wildlife Research Center (NWRC) in Fort Collins, CO. Her research studies focus on developing genetic approaches to inform wildlife damage management efforts. Population-level investigations can determine geographical boundaries of populations, gene flow between populations (population connectivity), and genetic diversity within populations. Phylogenetic studies can test hypotheses of taxonomic definitions and evolutionary relationships. Research data gathered in any of these areas can enhance effectiveness of management efforts. Because wildlife genetics data can elucidate population dynamics in host populations, they also may be useful in the management of wildlife diseases.

photo of Dr. Piaggio with vampire bat

Through her work, continuing education, and professional contacts, Dr. Piaggio stays current with the latest developments in her field, ensuring that the NWRC wildlife genetics lab will always be a leader in the use of exciting, cutting-edge tools and techniques and the application of robust scientific methods for the investigation of wildlife-human conflicts. Lab results will allow wildlife managers not only to use the best genetic tools available but also to maintain genetic diversity and evolutionary potential of the wildlife species under investigation.

Current Research

  • Using genomic data to identify population specific alleles that could be used to make gene drive approaches population-specific
  • Using environmental DNA to detect invasive species, specifically terrestrial species
  • Investigating population connectivity of endangered Columbia white-tailed deer in Oregon and Washington and helping inform translocation efforts
  • Aiding WS Operations wolf investigations through the application of a canid genetics database to identify wolf hybrids (wolf/dog or wolf/coyote)
  • Examining population genomics of raccoons in areas of rabies outbreaks to identify management units
  • Whole genome sequencing of avian influenza samples and using molecular techniques to identify samples from archive (>20,000 samples) that are good candidates for whole genome sequencing
  • Conducting genetic analyses of rats, mice, and mongoose that invade islands to identify sources
  • Comparing vampire bat population dynamics in areas where rabies is prevalent and in areas where rabies is uncommon
  • Conducting genetic analyses of Mexican wolves, western wolves, mountain beaver, beavers, and other species that cause human-wildlife conflict
  • Identifying vulture species composition at mixed-species roosts in areas where they cause problems for military bases
  • Genetic diet analyses of invasive species and predators
  • Metagenomics to reduce efforts and costs of vector-borne pathogen surveillance

Products/Techniques Developed or Tested

  • Environmental DNA assays
  • Metabarcoding for diet analysis
  • Metagenomic of bulk insect traps to identify pathogen, insect species, and blood meal origins
  • Forensic investigations
  • Species identification from fecal, hair, saliva, etc.
  • Individual animal identification from fecal, hair, saliva, etc.
  • Microsatellite marker development for multiple species
  • Population genetics/genomics studies
  • Phylogenetic studies


  • Ph.D., University of Colorado Boulder, CO
  • M.S., San Francisco State University SF, CA
  • B.A. Mills College, Oakland CA

International Experience

  • Mexico (vampire bats)
  • China (Avian Influenza)

Contact Information

  • Address: Wildlife Services, NWRC, 4101 LaPorte Ave., Fort Collins, CO, 80521
  • Telephone: 970-266-6142
  • E-mail:        



Hayes, M.A. and A.J. Piaggio. 2018. Assessing the potential impacts of a changing climate on the distribution of a rabies virus vector. PLoS ONE 13(2):e0192887. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0192887

Hernandez, F.A., B.M. Parker, C.L. Pylant, T.J. Smyser, A.J. Piaggio, S.L. Lance, M.P. Milleson, J.D. Austin, and S.M. Wisely. 2018. Invasion ecology of wild pigs (Sus scrofa) in Florida, USA: the role of humans in the expansion and colonization of an invasive wild ungulate. Biological Invasions 20(7):1865-1880. doi: 10.1007/s10530-018-1667-6

Mangan, A.M., A.J. Piaggio, M.W. Hopken, S.J. Werner, and L. Pejchar. 2018. A molecular analysis to assess codling moth Cydia pomonella L. (Lepidoptera: Tortricidae) predation by orchard birds.Ecological Indicators. 93:1222-1225. doi: 10.1016/j.ecolind.2018.06.025

McCann, B.E., T.J. Smyser, B.S. Schmidt, R.A. Newman, A.J. Piaggio, M.J. Malek, S.R. Swafford, R.A. Sweitzer, and R.B. Simmons. 2018. Molecular population structure for feral swine in the United States. The Journal of Wildlife Management 82(4):821-832. doi: 10.1002/jwmg.21452

Robeson, M.S., K. Khanipov, G. Golovko, S.M. Wisely, M.D. White, M. Bodenchuck, T.J. Smyser, Y. Fofanov, N. Fierer, and A.J. Piaggio. 2018. Assessing the utility of metabarcoding for diet analyses of the omnivorous wild pig (Sus scrofa). Ecology and Evolution 8(1):185-196. doi: 10.1002/ece3.3638

Williams, K.E., K.P. Huyvaert, K.C. Vercauteren, A.J. Davis, and A.J. Piaggio. 2018. Detection and persistence of environmental DNA from an invasive, terrestrial mammal. Ecology and Evolution 8(1):688-695. doi: 10.1002/ece3.3698

Wostenberg, D.J., N. Walker, K.A. Fox, T.R. Spraker, A.J. Piaggio, and A. Gilbert. 2018. Evidence of two cocirculating canine distemper virus strains in mesocarnivores from Northern Colorado, USA. Journal of Wildlife Diseases 54(3):534-543. doi: 10.7589/2017-09-238


Hopken, M.W., B.M. Ryan, K.P. Huyvaert, and A.J. Piaggio. 2017. Picky eaters are rare: DNA-based blood meal analysis of Culicoides (Diptera: Ceratopotonidae) species from the United States. Parasites & Vectors 10(1):169. doi:10.1186/s13071-017-2099-3

Piaggio, A.J., A.L. Russell, I.A. Osorio, A.J. Ramirez, J.W. Fischer, J.L. Neuwald, A.E. Tibbels, L. Lecuona, and G.F. McCracken. 2017. Genetic demography at the leading edge of the distribution of a rabies virus vector. Ecology and Evolution: 1-9.  doi: 10.1002/ece3.3087

Piaggio, A.J., G. Segelbacher, P.J. Seddon, L. Alphey, E.L. Bennett, R.H. Carlson, R.M. Friedman, D. Kanavy, R. Phelan, K.H. Redford, M. Rosales, L. Slobodian, and K. Wheeler. 2017. Is it time for synthetic biodiversity conservation? Trends in Ecology & Evolution 32(2):97-107.  doi: 10.1016/j.tree2016.10.016

Tabak, M.A., A.J. Piaggio, R.S. Miller, R.A. Sweitzer, and H.B. Ernest. 2017. Anthropogenic factors predict movement of an invasive species. Ecosphere 8(6) e01844.  doi: 10.1002/ecs2.1844

Williams, K.E., K.P. Huyvaert, and A.J. Piaggio. 2017. Clearing muddied waters:  Capture of environmental DNA from turbid waters. PloS One 12(7):e0179282.  doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0179282


Kierepka, E.M., S.D. Unger, D.A. Keiter, J.C. Beasley, O.E. Rhodes Jr., F. L. Cunningham, and A.J. Piaggio. 2016. Identification of robust microsatellite markers for wild pig fecal DNA. Journal of Wildlife Management 80:1120-1128.  doi: 10.1002/jwmg.21102  

Williams, K.E., K.P. Huyvaert, and A.J. Piaggio. 2016. No filters, no fridges: a method for preservation of water samples for eDNA analysis. 2016. BMC Research Notes 9(1):298.  doi: 10.1186/s13104-016-2104-5  

Reed, R.N., M.W. Hopken, D.A. Steen, B.G. Falk, and A.J. Piaggio. 2016. Integrating early detection with DNA barcoding: species identification of a non-native monitor lizard (Squamata: Varanidae) carcass in Mississippi, U.S.A. Management of Biological Invasions 7(2):193-197.  doi: 10.3391/mbi.2016.7.2.07  

Piaggio, A.J., C.A. Cariappa, D.J. Straughan, M.A. Neubaum, M. Dwire, P.R. Krausman, W.B. Ballard, D.L. Bergman, and S.W. Breck. 2016. A noninvasive method to detect Mexican wolves and estimate abundance. Wildlife Society Bulletin 40(2):321-330.  doi: 10.1002/wsb.659  

Hopken, M.W., E.K. Orning, J.K. Young, and A.J. Piaggio. 2016. Molecular forensics in avian conservation: a DNA-based approach for identifying mammalian predators of ground-nesting birds and eggs. BMC Research Notes 9:14.  doi: 10.1186/s13104-015-1797-1


Carlson, J.C., D.R. Hyatt, K. Bentler, A.M. Mangan, M. Russell, A.J. Piaggio, and G.M. Linz. 2015. Molecular characterization of Salmonella enterica isolates associated with starling-livestock interactions. Veterinary Microbiology 179:109-118.  doi: 10.1016/j.vetmic.2015.03.015

Damm, D.L., J.B. Armstrong, W.M. Arjo, and A.J. Piaggio. 2015. Assessment of population structure of coyotes in East-Central Alabama using microsatellite DNA. Southeastern Naturalist 14(1):106-122.  doi: 10.1656/058.014.0118

Hopken, M.W., T.M. Lum, P.M. Meyers, and A.J. Piaggio. 2015. Molecular assessment of translocation and management of an endangered subspecies of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). Conservation Genetics 16:635-647.  doi: 10.1007/s10592-014-0689-6

Lewicki, K.E., K.P. Huyvaert, A.J. Piaggio, L.V. Diller, and  A.B. Franklin. 2015. Effects of barred owl (Strix varia) range expansion on Haemoproteus parasite assemblage dynamics and transmission in barred and northern spotted owls (Strix occidentalis caurina). Biological Invasions 17(6):1713-1727.  doi: 10.1007/s10530-014-0828-5


Herman, J.A., A.J. Piaggio, N.D. Halbert, J.C. Rhyan, and M.D. Salman. 2014. Genetic analysis of a bison (Bison bison) herd derived from the Yellowstone National Park population. Wildlife Biology 20(6):335-343.  doi: 10.2981/slb.00051.

Pedersen, K., C.R. Quance, S. Robbe-Austerman, A.J. Piaggio, S.N. Bevins, S.M. Goldstein, W.D. Gaston, and T.J. DeLiberto. 2014. Identification of Brucella suis from feral swine in selected states in the USA. Journal of Wildlife Diseases 50(2): 171-179. doi: 10.7589/2013-09-235.

Piaggio, A.J., R.M. Engeman, M.W. Hopken, J.S. Humphrey, K.L. Keacher, W.E. Bruce, and M.L. Avery. 2014. Detecting an elusive invasive species: a diagnostic PCR to detect Burmese python in Florida waters and an assessment of persistence of environmental DNA. Molecular Ecology Resources, 14: 374–380. doi: 10.1111/1755-0998.12180.


Piaggio, A. J., B. A. Coghlan, A. E. Miscampbell, W. M. Arjo, D. B. Ransome, and C. E. Ritland. 2013. Molecular phylogeny of an ancient rodent family (Aplodontiidae). Journal of Mammalogy 94:529-543.

Root, J.J., M.W. Hopken, T. Gidlewski, A.J. Piaggio. 2013. Cottontail rabbit papillomavirus infection in a desert cottontail (Sylvilagus audubonii) from Colorado, USA. Journal of Wildlife Diseases 49(4): 1060-1062. doi: 10.7589/2013-02-033.


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