Go to main content

Population genetics

populasjonsgenetikk espen bierud

Population genetics is the study of genetic variation within and among populations. Or put in an alternative manner, we apply genetic markers to identify and quantify the evolutionary relationships among groups of individuals (populations) in time and space. 

Our work involves connecting observed genetic patterns to the physical, ecological, biological and functional-genetic mechanisms shaping what we observe. We also use genetics methods to answer other relevant questions relating to the marine environment including environmental DNA analyses (eDNA).  

Some of the most fundamental questions in population genetics include:

  • Are the fish/organisms we are harvesting/exploiting from one or multiple populations?
  • What is the degree of contact between these populations in time and space?
  • Do these populations display adaptive and/or functional genetic differences?
  • What type of underlying ecological and evolutionary mechanisms operate?
  • Do our harvest regimes present an evolutionary pressure on these populations?
  • What is the type and level of interaction between aquaculture and wild populations?

The group's research-core is tightly linked to the Institute of Marine Research's overall vision of providing knowledge that will form the foundation for long-term and sustainable resource use in the marine environment, including the interaction between aquaculture and the environment. For example, if you don’t know whether your fishery is targeting one or multiple populations, how can you know if the fishery is truly sustainable? Maybe the weakest component of the fishery is being overexploited and the strongest component of the fishery underexploited? Genetics tools enable us to dissect these questions, and provide informed management decisions for sustainable and long-term exploitation.


The group has an extensive National and International network which is too extensive to list (but see Key publications from the IMR Population Genetics group.pdf). We always welcome and actively encourage collaboration on the topics we work on.