Heather Evans

Research Adjunct, Genomics & Microbiology Research Lab

121 West Jones Street, Raleigh, NC 27601


  • PhD in Genetics and Genomics, Duke University
  • BS in Genetics, University of Georgia

Research Interests

Dr. Evans is a conservation geneticist for the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. She works closely with species biologists in using genetics to identify, track and manage wildlife populations. One of the main ways this goal is accomplished is through the use of microsatellite markers — areas in the genome containing tandem repeats. These markers allow for the examination of genetic differentiation at a population level and can help answer questions such as: How many populations of a certain species exist? What is the genetic diversity between and within populations? What are the boundaries of each population? Is hybridization between species occurring? The microsatellite markers can also identify individual animals through the creation of a genomic fingerprint, much the same way a forensic scientist would be able to identify a person using their DNA! This technique, called parentage-based tagging, can be used in fish hatcheries, where a specific genetic profile can be created for each broodfish by extracting and processing DNA from a small fin clip. This process effectively “tags” 100% of the offspring released from the hatchery, and the genetic profiles can be used to calculate important metrics such as percent hatchery contribution and effective population size.

Dr. Evans relies heavily on DNA sequencing in her work. Species management requires knowledge of what species exist and where they live. Gene sequence is used in molecular systematics to identify phylogenetic relationships between individuals and can aid in the identification of new species. Amplifying and sequencing DNA from environmental samples, such as soil or water, can determine the presence or absence of species of interest within a specific environment. DNA sequencing can also yield insights into broader ecological questions. For example, Dr. Evans recently completed a study using high-throughput sequencing to analyze diets of multiple fish species in the Pamunkey River. This study examined the consumption of at-risk and indicator species and compared diet diversity among the various species examined.

Are you interested in helping conserve our state’s species? See the links below for ways you can be involved:

Peer-Reviewed Publications

  • Bunch A.J., Carlson K.B., Hoogakker F.J., Plough L.V., Evans H.K. (2021) Atlantic sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus oxyrinchus Mitchill, 1815) early life stage consumption evidenced by high-throughput DNA sequencing. Journal of Applied Ichthyology 00:1-8
  • Evans H.K., Carlson K.B., Wisser R., Raley M.E., Potoka,K.M., and Dockendorf K.J. (2018) Genetics and Hatchery Management: A Parentage-based Tagging Approach to Blueback Herring Conservation. Journal of Fish and Wildlife Management 9:4-1
  • Cushman E.L., Evans H.K., Moyer G.R., Raley M.E., Williams A.S., Darden T.S. (2018) Development of a Standardized Molecular Tool and Estimation of Genetic Measure for Responsible Aquaculture-Based Fisheries Enhancement of American Shad in North and South Carolina. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 148(1):148-62

Fields of Research