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Dr. Tom Ledig

Dr. Thomas Ledig is a senior scientist emeritus with the U.S. Forest Service’s Institute of Forest Genetics, and is a research affiliate with the University of California, Davis. Tom’s research is primarily in conservation genetics and evolutionary biology, specifically (1) the conservation genetics and mating systems of rare Mexican spruces and piñon pines and (2) the recent evolutionary history and biogeography of Californian conifers. His work utilizes isozymes and field tests to investigate natural populations of these forest trees, attempting to reconstruct their evolutionary histories and determine the processes (selection, mutation, genetic drift, migration) that shape their genetic structure. The objective is to develop principles for the conservation of biodiversity.

The Botanic Garden is collaborating with Dr. Ledig to establish a plot with the two subspecies of Torrey Pine (both rare) and their hybrids. These trees, from Torrey Pines State Reserve near San Diego and Santa Rosa Island, represent all the known genetic material of the pine. Researchers hope to find a capacity for pure subspecies to hybridize, and a higher survival rate for hybridized trees. Currently, each of the two remaining populations has extremely low genetic variability. This is a long-term project that will serve as a practical option for restoration and introduction of the species in the wild.

Tom is also a member of the Forest Genetic Resources Working Group (FGRWG) of the North American Forest Commission/FAO/UN. The role of the FGRWG is to advise the North American Forest Commission (the chiefs of the Canadian, U.S., and Mexican agencies responsible for forests) with respect to genetic resources. The Group's primary objectives are to encourage and promote collection, exchange, and dissemination of information, and to coordinate programs of research, conservation, and training among the countries of North America.