Holly Ernest

Holly Ernest

Position Title
Assoc. Professor in Residence, Wildlife Genetics and Population Health

Department of Population Health and Reproduction, School of Veterinary Medicine

258 CCAH building, Veterinary Medicine Complex

Profile Introduction

Chair, Animal Genomics Focus Group for Genetics Graduate Group;Wildlife geneticist and veterinarian with research interests in the application of genomic tools to study animal ecology & wildlife diseases and improve wildlife health, conservation, and management. She directs the Wildlife and Ecological Genetics Unit of the UC Davis Veterinary Genetics Laboratory.

Research Interests

Wildlife Genetics and Genomics

Population genetics at landscape level; wildlife disease ecology, wildlife genomics. Dr. Ernest is a wildlife geneticist and research veterinarian with interests in the application of genomic tools for animal ecology, wildlife health; directs the Wildlife Ecology Unit of the UC Davis Veterinary Genetics Laboratory.

Species of interest

California wild mammals and birds. Current projects involve mountain lions, black bears, sea otters, river otters, bighorn sheep, wild pigs, hummingbirds, yellow-billed magpies. One domestic species: domestic (pet) ferret population genetics in relationship to cancer incidence.

Grad Group Affiliations

  • Animal Biology Graduate Group
  • Avian Sciences
  • Ecology Graduate Group
  • Epidemiology Medical Informat
  • Forensic Science

Specialties / Focus

  • Animal Genomics


  • Ecol. Gen PHR242/ECL242 Ecological Genetics, winter
  • Ecol. Gen PHR298 Landscape Genetics with GIS, every other winter
  • Ecol. Gen ECL290 Molecular Markers for Ecology and WIldlife Health , alt years
  • Ecol. Gen ECL290 Population Genetics Data analysis and software , alt years
  • Ecol. Gen PHR242/ECL242 Ecological Genetics, fall


  • Wildlife and Ecology Unit of the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory http://www.vgl.ucdavis.edu/wildlife/

Field Sites

  • Hummingbird banding station http://www.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/vgl/wildlife/projects/hummingbirds.html

Professional Societies

  • American Association of Wildlife Veterinarians
  • Wildlife Disease Association
  • The Wildlife Society
  • American Ornithological Union
  • Ecological Society of America
  • Cooper and Wilson Ornithological Societies
  • Western Bird Banders Association


  • 1980 BS Biology/Animal Science Cornell University
  • 1982 MS Veterinary Physiology and Pharmacology Ohio State University
  • 1986 DVM Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Ohio State University
  • 2001 PhD Ecology with emphasis on genetics for ecology and wildlife University of California, Davis


See publication list for most recent updates at http://www.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/vgl/wildlife/publications.html

Development of a high-throughput microsphere-based molecular assay to identify fifteen common bloodmeal hosts of Culex mosquitoes. TC Thiemann, AC Brault, HB Ernest, WK Reisen. 2012. Molecular Ecology Resources.

Differential migration in Five Species of Raptors in Central Coastal California. Hull JM, Pitzer SM, Fish AM, Ernest HB, Hull AC. 2012, Journal of Raptor Research.

Reduced MHC and neutral variation in the Galapagos hawk, an island endemic. Bollmer JL, Hull JM, Ernest HB, Sarasola JH, Parker PG. BMC Evolutionary Biology 2011, 11:143.

Estimating Western Scrub-Jay Density in California using multiple covariate distance sampling. Crosbie S, Souza LE, Ernest HB. In Press, The Condor 113(4).

Winter Distribution and Conservation Status of the Sierra Nevada Great Gray Owl. Jepsen EP, Keane J, Ernest HB. 2011, Journal of Wildlife Management.

Annual Survival of House Finches in relation to West Nile Virus. Pelligrini AR, Wright S, Reisen WK, Treiterer B, Ernest HB. In Press, The Condor.

Population structure and plumage polymorphism: The intraspecific evolutionary relationships of a polymorphic raptor, Buteo jamaicensis harlani Hull JM, DP Mindell, Talbot SL, Kay EH, Hoekstra HE, and Ernest HB. 2010. BMC Evolutionary Biology 10:224.

Range-wide genetic differentiation among North American great gray owls (Strix nebulosa) reveals a distinct lineage restricted to the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Hull JM, Keane JJ, Savage WK, Godwin SA, Shafer J, Jepsen EP, Gerhardt R,Stermer C, and Ernest HB. 2010. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 56:212-221.

Pathology associated with West Nile Virus infections in the Yellow-billed Magpie (Pica nuttalli): a California endemic bird. Ernest HB, Woods LW, Hoar BR. 2010. Journal of Wildlife Diseases. 46:401-408.

Molecular genealogy tools for white-tailed deer with Chronic Wasting Disease. Ernest HB, Hoar BR, Well JA, O'Rourke K. 2010. Canadian Journal of Veterinary Research. 74(2)152

West Nile virus antibody surveillance in three Sierra Nevada raptors of conservation concern. Hull JM, Keane JJ, Tell LA, Ernest HB. 2010. The Condor. 112(1):168-172

Black Bear Population Genetics in California: Signatures of Population Structure, Competitive Release and Historical Translocation. Brown SK, Hull JM, Updike D, Fain S, Ernest HB. 2009. Journal of Mammalogy. 90:1066–1074.

Differential Migration between Discrete Populations of Juvenile Red-tailed Hawks (Buteo jamaicensis). Hull JM, Ernest HB, Harley JA, Fish AM, Hull AC. 2009. The Auk- Journal of the American Ornithologists' Union. 126:389–396.

Development of nine microsatellite loci for Yellow-billed Magpie (Pica nuttalli) and corvid ecology and West Nile virus studies. Ernest HB, Well JA, and J. Kurushima. 2008. Molecular Ecology Resources. 8:196 - 198

On the origin the Galápagos hawk: An examination of phenotypic differentiation and mitochondrial paraphyly. Hull JM, Savage WK, Bollmer JL, Kimball RT, Parker PG, Whiteman NK, Ernest HB. 2008. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. 95:779 - 789.

Early Impact of West Nile virus on the Yellow-billed Magpie (Pica nuttalli). Crosbie SP, Koenig WD, Reisen WK, Kramer VL, Marcus L, Carney R, Pandolfino E, Bolen GM, Crosbie LR, Bell DA, Ernest HB. 2008. The Auk- Journal of the American Ornithologists' Union.125: 542–550.

Comparative phylogeography and population genetics within Buteo lineatus reveals evidence of distinct evolutionary lineages. Hull JM, BN Strobel, CW Boal, AC Hull, CR Dykstra, AM Irish, AM Fish, HB Ernest, 2008. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 49:988-996.

Development of 37 microsatellite loci for Great Gray Owls (Strix nebulosa) with cross amplification in Spotted Owls (Strix occidentalis) and Barred Owls (Strix varia). Hull J, J Keane, L Tell, and H Ernest. 2008. Conservation Genetics 9: 1357-1361.

Population structure and genetic diversity in Swainson’s Hawks (Buteo swainsoni), implications for conservation. Hull J.M., R. Anderson, M. Bradbury, J. Estep, H. B. Ernest. 2008. Conservation Genetics 9:305-316.

Sex determination of three raptor species using morphology and molecular techniques. Pitzer S, Hull J, Ernest H, Hull A. 2008. Journal of Field Ornithology. 79(1):71–79.

Landscape characteristics influence morphological and genetic differentiation in a widespread raptor (Buteo jamaicensis. Hull JM, Hull AC, Sacks BN, Smith JP, Ernest HB. 2008. Molecular Ecology. 17: 810 - 824.

Coyotes Demonstrate How Habitat Specialization by Individuals of a Generalist Species Can Diversify Populations in a Heterogeneous Ecoregion. Sacks BN, DL Bannasch, BB Chomel, HB Ernest. 2008. Molecular Biology and Evolution 2008 25(7):1384-1394.

Hybridization among Buteos: Swainson's Hawks (Buteo swainsoni) × Red-tailed Hawks (Buteo jamaicensis). Hull J.M., W. Savage, J.P. Smith, N. Murphy, L. Cullen, A.D. Hutchins, H.B. Ernest. 2007. The Wilson Journal of Ornithology,.119(4):579–584.

Development of 19 microsatellite loci for Swainson’s Hawks (Buteo swainsoni) and other Buteos. Hull J.M., D. Tufts, J.R. Topinka, B.P. May, H.B. Ernest. 2007. Molecular Ecology Notes 7 (2), 346–349.

Microsatellite analysis of three Elk (Cervus elaphus) subspecies in California. Meredith E.P., J.A. Rodzen, J.D. Banks, R. Schaefer, H.B. Ernest, T.R. Famula, B.P. May. 2007. Journal of Mammalogy.88: 801–808.

Development of 21 microsatellite loci for puma (Puma concolor) ecology and forensics. Kurushima J., J. Well, J. Collins, H.B.Ernest. 2006. Molecular Ecology Notes 6 (4), 1260–1262.

West Nile Virus Antibody Prevalence in Free-ranging California Raptors. Hull J.M., A. Hull, H.B. Ernest. 2006. The Condor. 108:435–439.

San Francisco's Golden Gate: a bridge between historically distinct coyote (Canis latrans) populations? Sacks B.N., H.B. Ernest, E.E. Boydston. 2006. Western North American Naturalist. 66:263-264.

Movements and social structure along a cryptic population genetic subdivision in the coyote. Sacks B.N., B.R. Mitchell, C.L. Williams, H.B. Ernest. 2005. Molecular Ecology 14:1241-1249.

Population structure of California coyotes corresponds to habitat-specific breaks and illuminates species history. Sacks B.N., Sarah Brown, H.B. Ernest. 2004. Molecular Ecology. 13:1265-1275.

Population Genetic Structure of Mountain Lions in California. Ernest H.B., V.C. Bleich, B.P. May, S.Stiver, S. Torres, W.M. Boyce. 2003. Conservation Genetics. 4(3): 353-366.

Fecal DNA analysis and risk assessment of mountain lion predation of bighorn sheep. Ernest H.B., E.S. Rubin, W.M. Boyce. 2002. Journal of Wildlife Management 66(1) 75-85.

Captive breeding Contingency plan: A Guide for Captive Breeding of Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep. Ernest HB. 2001. Report for Interagency Agreement # P9980059 between California Department of Fish and Game and Wildlife Health Center, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis CA. 147 pages.

DNA analysis for mountain lion conservation. Ernest H.B. Outdoor California. May-June. 61(3)16-19. 2000.

DNA sampling and research techniques. Ernest H.B. Outdoor California. May-June. 61(3)20-21. 2000.

Molecular tracking of mountain lions in the Yosemite Valley region in California: genetic analysis using microsatellites and fecal DNA. Ernest, H.B., M.C.T. Penedo, B.P. May, M. Syvanen, and W.M. Boyce. 2000. Molecular Ecology 9:433-441.

DNA Identification of mountain lions involved in livestock predation and public safety incident. H.B. Ernest, W.M. Boyce. 2000. Proceedings of the 19th Vertebrate Pest Conference. T. P. Salmon and A. C. Crabb, Eds. Published at the University of California, Davis. 290-294.

Desert bighorn sheep mortality due to presumptive type C botulism. Swift, P.K., J.D. Wehausen, H.B. Ernest, R.S. Singer, A.M. Pauli, H. Kinde, T.E. Rocke, and V.C. Bleich. 2000. Journal of Wildlife Diseases. 36(1):184-189.