Department of Natural Sciences, Faculty of Science & Engineering
ECOLOGICAL GENETICS & CONSERVATION
The ecological genetics and conservation research group in Manchester addresses a wide variety of biological and ecological questions with the aim of informing both in situ and ex situ conservation. We work on a whole range of different in both terrestrial and marine environments and across temperate and tropical biomes. Our broad research themes are listed below.
See a list of our lab's publications here.
Attempts to conserve biodiversity have forced us to examine how levels of genetic diversity influence not only the survival of individual species but also entire ecosystems.
We examine intraspecfic (within species) genetic variation and connectivity among populations (population genetics), as well as how genetically based variation in a focal species influences the diversity of associated species and the outcome of interspecific (among species) interactions (community genetics).
Current projects include, community genetics of Caribbean sponges, mangrove forests and seagrass meadows; population genetics of European and Caribbean lobsters, undulate rays, deep sea corals and UK grassland species; phylogenetics of Central American amphibians.
Although ecosystems are increasingly threatened and disrupted by anthropogenic pressures, we still lack basic information on the biodiversity we are trying to protect. A key issue is that individual species do not exist in a vacuum, but interact with a myriad of other species, as well as the natural environment, throughout their lifetimes.
We are using a combination of field-based studies, ecological experiments and molecular techniques to better understand the composition of ecological communities, how multiple species coexist and the impact of humans on biodiversity.
Current projects include camera trapping in the Amazon rainforest, the role of diet and the gut microbiome in honey and bumble bees, temporal niche separation and species coexistence in UK grasslands, fish community structure in coral atolls, biodiversity of bryozoans, Amazonian primate diversity and bushmeat and the ecosystem services of mangroves.
With the current pace of habitat destruction, ex situ conservation has been gaining importance as a means of protecting species from extinction. However, keeping organisms outside of their natural environment, either in captivity or in culture, is wrought with difficulty. Most often, this is due to the fact that we lack information on how they live in the wild.
In collaboration with zoos, aquaria and botanic gardens, we are investigating how best to keep and breed a number of rare and endangered species.
Current projects include the influence of dietary pigments and light regimes on frogs, the cultivation of orchids with their mycorrhizal symbionts, how wood-fungal interactions influence frigate beetle growth and the conservation of genetic diversity in captive elasmobranchs.