Conservation genomics of endangered bird species in zoos

Lead Research Organisation: University of East Anglia
Department Name: Environmental Sciences

Abstract

The IUCN Red List assessment of endangered species does not make use of genetic or genomic data, potentially leading to a serious underestimation of the extinction risk, and suboptimal conservation management. In addition, the Red List assessment does not make use of fitness and pedigree data collected in zoos. These data are invaluable to understand a species response to inbreeding and to inform conservation strategies in-situ. The proposed ARIES PhD project will conduct research to improve the assessment of extinction risk of bird species, and their conservation management in zoos and in the natural environment. The IUCN recognises the need to improve the Red List assessment, and they have set up the Conservation Genetics Specialist Group (CGSG). A significant advance in conservation can be made by improving the collaboration and communication between universities, the IUCN and zoos. The student will be instrumental in cementing the existing links, and conducting world-class research in genomics and conservation biology. In particular, the objectives of this PhD research project are: (1) perform whole genome sequence analysis of at least 4 bird species to estimate the current and past level of inbreeding; (2) analyse pedigree data to calculate the inbreeding coefficients of birds; (3) conduct quantitative genetic analysis to calculate the genetic load (i.e. number of lethal equivalents) of each species; (4) Use these data in a population viability analysis (PVA) with the model Vortex [3]; (5) Communicate the findings to conservation practitioners in seminars and workshops (in zoos, EAZA, IUCN), present on conferences, and write scientific articles.

Publications

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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
NE/S007334/1 01/10/2019 30/09/2027
2457020 Studentship NE/S007334/1 01/10/2020 31/03/2024 Samuel Andrew Speak