Researchers in this group investigate the evolution, maintenance and conservation of biodiversity using modern (next-generation sequencing - NGS) and traditional (microsatellite analysis, mitochondrial DNA sequencing) molecular methods.
Dr Mairi Knight and Dr Jonathan Ellis are together working with PhD candidate Victoria Buswell to determine local adaptation in the dark European honeybee. In this NERC-CASE funded project (in collaboration with the organisation B4: Bringing Back Black Bees), Victoria is using a combination of citizen science and NGS to investigate the extent and basis of phenotypic and genotypic basis in native, hybridized bees and other subspecies (Ellis et al 2018). Post-doctoral researcher Dr Vanessa Huml is also working with Mairi and Jon to examine the population genetic consequences of recent UK colonization by the tree bumblebee Bombus hypnorum; specifically, Vanessa seeks to establish the number of founding events, colonization history and evidence for selection at the wave front. Vanessa’s association with Dr Ellis began during her Ph.D. focussing on the conservation genetics of functional variation in the European grayling, Thymallus thymallus. They found that unlike populations supplemented by fishery reared individuals, native grayling populations possessed high levels of genetic diversity at immune gene markers; i.e. natural populations may be better able to fight infectious disease than ‘stock fish’ (Hulm et al 2018).
Genetic resilience to infectious disease also forms a major part of work conducted by Dr Rob Puschendorf. In a recent paper (Puschendorf et al 2019), Rob investigated genetic richness and ranavirus infection status of endemic amphibian species (Craugastor ranoides) using extant dry forest populations and historic museum specimens collected from cloud forests. In collaboration with Mairi Knight and Professor Dan Janzen amongst others, Rob’s study documents cryptic diversity within an endangered species, raises questions about Ranavirus and its potential link to amphibian declines in this system, and suggests a potential for effective translocation and repopulation of extirpated cloud forest populations. Dr Puschendorf is also interested in spatial variation in phylogeographic structure. For example, in collaboration with recently graduated PhD student Felicity Wynne and undergraduate, Jimmy Cryer, Rob found evidence for polyphyletic lineages in Central American populations of Warszewitsch's frog (Lithobates warszewitschii), complicated patterns that could not explained by geographic barriers (Cryer et al 2019).
Dr Chiara Boschetti uses comparative genomics to study how microscopic invertebrates (rotifers, tardigrades and nematodes) survive extreme environmental stresses. In addition she is particularly interested in the role of horizontal gene transfer as an alternative to sexual reproduction (notably diminished in some of these animals) as a means of increasing genetic diversity (see Barbosa et al 2016).
Huml JV, …..Ellis JS (2018) Neutral variation does not predict immunogenetic variation in the European grayling (Thymallus thymallus) - implications for management. Molecular Ecology 27: 4157-4173.
Ellis JS, Soland-Reckeweg G, Buswell VG, Huml JV, Brown A, Knight ME (2018) Introgression in native populations of Apis mellifera mellifera L. implications for conservation. Journal of Insect Conservation 22: 377–390.
F, Knight ME et al (2019) Cryptic diversity and
ranavirus infection of a critically endangered Neotropical frog before and
after population collapse. Animal
Cryer J, Wynne F, Price SJ, Puschendorf R (2019) Cryptic diversity in Lithobates warszewitschii (Amphibia, Anura, Ranidae). ZooKeys 838: 49-69.
Barbosa EGG, …., Boschetti C, Tunnacliffe A. (2016). A functional difference between native and horizontally acquired genes in bdelloid rotifers. Gene 590: 186-191.