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Alexandra Watts

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I am interested in spatial genetic mechanisms and conserving biodiversity in threatened taxa. Currently, I am looking at the demographic history, diversity and connectivity of whale shark populations across varying spatial scales with both genetic and genomic markers, in the hope of revealing more about how they use the oceans and where we can most effectively conserve the species.


My interest in wildlife genetics began with field guiding, big game breeding programmes and veterinary medicine in South Africa, and I returned to the UK to complete a conservation Masters degree at MMU. A sailing expedition sparked my interest in genetic dynamics in the marine environment and, keen to pursue this, I became a whale shark research assistant for the Marine Megafauna Foundation (MMF) in Mozambique. During this time I worked on coastal conservation planning and began collecting tissue samples from multiple international study sites, leading to my PhD at MMU in 2017.



R Hardenstine, S He, J Cochran, C Braun,  E Cagua, S Pierce, C Prebble, C Rohner, P Saenz-Agudelo, T Sinclair-Taylor, G Skomal, S Thorrold, A Watts, C Zarkoff, M Berumen. Pieces in a global puzzle: Population genetics at two whale shark aggregations in the western Indian Ocean. Ecology and Evolution (under revision).


AM MacNeil, DD Chapman, M Heupel, CA Simpfendorfer, M Heithaus, ... A Watts, ... A Wothke., E Zarza-Gonzâlez & JE Cinner et al (2020) ‘Global status and conservation potential of reef sharks’, Nature, 583(7818), pp. 801–806


T Sancelme, J Goetze, S Jaquemet, MG Meekan, A Flam, Watts, & CW Speed (2020) Contrasting patterns in the abundance of fish communities targeted by fishers on two coral reefs in southern Mozambique, African Journal of Marine Science, 42:1, 95-107

JR Green, S Pierce, C Rohner, G Rueda, SM Green, J Waack,  & Watts (2017). Shark Investigation in the Galapagos Marine Reserve. In Galapagos Whale Shark Field Report 2017

AD Marshall, J Conradie, D Van Duinkerken, S Pierce, & Watts, A (2017). Key aggregation areas & recommendations for marine megafauna in the Greater Vilanculos area. Marine Megafauna Technical Report.


AM Watts, SJ Pierce, RF Preziosi, A Dove, R Pillans, G Araujo, C Rohner A Hearn, J Green, D Robinson, B Cain. Connecting the dots: Genetic characterisation of the worlds’ most remote whale shark aggregations. Presenter, 5th International Whale Shark Conference, Western Australia. May 2019

AM Watts, SJ Pierce, RF Preziosi, A Dove, R Pillans, G Araujo, C Rohner A Hearn, J Green, D Robinson, B Cain. Applications for genetic inference to characterise cryptic life-stages in the whale shark. 4th International Whale Shark Conference. Qatar; Doha. Presenter, 4th International Whale Shark Conference. Qatar, Doha. May 2016

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