Vast improvements in sequencing technology have made it practical to simultaneously sequence millions of nucleotides distributed across the genome, opening the door for genomic studies in virtually any species. Ornithological research stands to benefit in three substantial ways. First, genomic methods enhance our ability to parse and simultaneously analyze both neutral and non-neutral genomic regions, thus providing insight into adaptive evolution and divergence. Second, the sheer quantity of sequence data generated by current sequencing platforms allows increased precision and resolution in analyses. Third, high-throughput sequencing can benefit applications that focus on a small number of loci that are otherwise prohibitively expensive, time-consuming, and technically difficult using traditional sequencing methods. These advances have improved our ability to understand evolutionary processes like speciation and local adaptation, but they also offer many practical applications in the fields of population ecology, migration tracking, conservation planning, diet analyses, and disease ecology. This review provides a guide for field ornithologists interested in incorporating genomic approaches into their research program, with an emphasis on techniques related to ecology and conservation. We present a general overview of contemporary genomic approaches and methods, as well as important considerations when selecting a genomic technique. We also discuss research questions that are likely to benefit from utilizing high-throughput sequencing instruments, highlighting select examples from recent avian studies.
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Vol. 133 • No. 4