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Dr. Toni 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

Education

  • 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: Toni.J.Piaggio@usda.gov        


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