U.S. Department of Commerce


Date of this Version



TRENDS in Ecology and Evolution Vol.20 No.3 March 2005; doi:10.1016/j.tree.2004.12.004


Assignment methods, which use genetic information to ascertain population membership of individuals or groups of individuals, have been used in recent years to study a wide range of evolutionary and ecological processes. In applied studies, the first step of articulating the biological question(s) to be addressed should be followed by selection of the method(s) best suited for the analysis. However, this first step often receives less attention than it should, and the recent proliferation of assignment methods has made the selection step challenging. Here, we review assignment methods and discuss how to match the appropriate methods with the underlying biological questions for several common problems in ecology and conservation (assessing population structure; measuring dispersal and hybridization; and forensics and mixture analysis). We also identify several topics for future research that should ensure that this field remains dynamic and productive.