Date of Award

December 2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Biological Sciences

First Advisor

Emily K. Latch

Committee Members

Filipe Alberto, Linda Whittingham, Peter Dunn, Sara Hoot


Badger, Dispersal, Landscape Genetics, Phylogeography, Specialization


American badgers are one of the most poorly understood carnivores in North America due to their highly elusive, semifossorial lifestyle. To complicate understanding their biology further, badgers possess life history characteristics that predict radically different responses to habitat heterogeneity. In particular, they are considered grassland specialists, so their movement and population viability could be highly dependent on grassland habitats. Badgers are also highly mobile, which suggests they experience high gene flow. Predicting how these life history traits impact gene flow, however, is difficult based on the high diversity in responses to landscape heterogeneity among carnivores. To assess how landscape heterogeneity affects gene flow in badgers, my dissertation contains three chapters. In the first chapter, I assessed performance of individual-based landscape genetic methods to identify statistics that would be most appropriate for elusive species like badgers. Once I identified methods that would be appropriate for badgers, I combined both individual-based simulations and landscape genetic methods in my second chapter to assess how landscape heterogeneity in Wisconsin affects gene flow in a protected population of badgers. My final chapter investigated how historical and contemporary changes in grasslands has affected genetic variation in badgers across their North American range.