School of Anthropology & Conservation

Excellence in diversity Global in reach


Conservation Genetics Laboratory

Rooms 118 & 119b, School of Anthropology and Consevation, University of Kent

Genetics lab research

Genetics: using genetic and genomic DNA tools to help save some of the world’s most critically-endangered species through molecular studies of disease ecology, evolutionary history and population genetics.

The DICE conservation genetics research team is led by Professor Jim Groombridge and focuses on conservation genetics, genomics, disease ecology and ecological and evolutionary studies involving endangered species, invasive alien species and other wildlife populations, as well as extinct species and reconstruction of evolutionary history amongst species and populations using molecular DNA markers. Jim’s team applies a variety of techniques, including microsatellite DNA markers, mtDNA and nuclear DNA sequencing, RAD-sequencing, quantitative PCR (qPCR) and environmental DNA (eDNA) methodologies. The team’s research also uses more ecological methodologies such as stable isotope analyses and mark-recapture approaches using non-invasive DNA sampling. The team collaborates closely with field teams and conservation organisations worldwide, many of whom focus on the world’s most critically-endangered species. The team work with a wide range of sample material, including blood/tissue samples, 100-200-year-old museum specimen samples, pond water samples (for eDNA), faecal and hair samples. Jim’s team operates from two molecular laboratories; one dedicated to DNA extraction and PCR preparation, and a second laboratory dedicated to PCR amplification and downstream analyses. The facility includes thermocyclers for standard PCR and quantitative PCR as well as UV-hoods in both laboratories for work on low-yield or degraded DNA samples. Alongside PhD students, the research team regularly host student research projects at both undergraduate and taught postgraduate level, enabling students on taught programmes to develop cutting-edge molecular genetic skills within a conservation context.

Members

 

Previous members of research group

  • Dr M Abdul-Aziz, DICE, Conservation and Population Genetics of Bengal Tigers
  • Dr Sarah Anderson, NERC-funded postdoctoral Research Associate
  • Dr Simon Black, DICE, MHC diversity and emerging infectious disease in parrot populations on Mauritius
  • Dr Rachel Bristol, DICE. Ecology, conservation genetics and restoration of the critically-endangered Seychelles Paradise Flycatcher, and a comparison of the evolutionary history of Indian Ocean flycatchers.
  • Claire Browne, DICE, Genetic variation of native white clawed crayfish (Austropotamobius pallipes) populations across south-east England.
  • Nina Cornish, DICE. Phylogeography and conservation of Jersey's Wall Lizards Podarcis muralis.
  • Dr Steve Green, DICE. Ecology, conservation and commercial exploitation of the 'Hog Island' Boa constrictor in the Cayos Cochinos, Honduras (co-supervisor).
  • Dr Hazel Jackson, DICE. Population genetics of invasive species: characterising population genetic history and disease prevalence in the introduced population of ringneck parakeets (Psittacula krameri) in the UK.
  • Nicola Jenner, DICE and Institute of Zoology. Factors affecting the social organisation of the black-backed jackal Canis mesomelas (co-supervisor).
  • Dr Samit Kundu, DICE, MHC diversity and emerging infectious disease in parrot populations on Mauritius
  • Dr Jim Labisko, DICE, Amphibians on the EDGE: Evolutionary relationships and conservation ecology of sooglossid frogs, in the Seychelles.
  • Dr Hanna Mounce, DICE. Recovery of the endangered Kiwikiu (Maui Parrotbill, Pseudonestor xanthophrys): population dynamics, conservation genetics and strategies for reintroduction.
  • Dr Rob Pickles, DICE and Institute of Zoology. Population genetics and social structure of the giant otter (Pteronura brasiliensis). NERC Studentship.
  • Dr Claire Raisin, DICE. Inbreeding, disease, and reproductive fitness in endemic and introduced populations of Psittacula parakeets on Mauritius. NERC Studentship. Collaboration with Mauritius Wildlife Foundation and Wildlife Vets International (CASE partner).
  • Siobhan Simpson - Molecular genetics and infectious disease in red squirrels on Jersey.
  • Dr Simon Tollington, DICE, Inbreeding, immune function and disease in endemic and bird populations on Mauritius. NERC Studentship. Collaboration with Mauritius Wildlife Foundation and Wildlife Vets International (CASE partner)
  • Faye Willman, DICE, Conservation genetics of the endangered Mauritius pink pigeon (Columba mayeri): a global metapopulation approach for long-term genetic management.

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Funding awarded to Jim Groombridge

2017

PARROTNET: European network on invasive parakeets: additional funds

£73,989

2016

Measuring the effects of supplementary feeding on trajectory of threatened populations. Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and Wildlife Vets International. 01/10/2015 - 30/09/2018

£6,000

2016

Conservation genetics of Bengal tigers using fecal DNA genotyping and DNA sequencing. Panthera Wildlife Trust. 04/07/2016 - 13/04/2017

£4,477

2016

PARROTNET: European network on invasive parakeets: additional funds

£78,905

2016

Translocating conservation success and skills-exchange across four Indian Ocean countries. Darwin Initiative. 1/04/2016 – 31/03/2019

£306,364

2016

PARROTNET: European network on invasive parakeets: additional funds

£29,786

2015

Environmental DNA as an assessment tool for population size estimates of the Great Crested Newt (Triturus cristatus). Funder: NERC NBAF #948. 27/10/2015 – 26/10/2016.

£25,547

2015

Genome sequencing of the ringneck parakeet: a genome scaffold for locating adaptive genes. University of Antwerp. 12/08/2015

£16,730

2015

Conservation genetics of the Arabian leopard; microsatellite genotyping of faecal DNA. Office for Conservation of the Environment, Diwan of Royal Court, Sultanate of Oman.

£34,242

2015

NERC EnvEast DTP PhD studentship ‘Measuring the effects of supplementary-feeding for population ecologists and biodiversity managers’ CASE Award (Durrell, Wildlife Vets International, Mauritius Wildlife Foundation). Starts October 2015

£70,219

2014

Reconnecting poverty-alleviation to biodiversity conservation in Kenya's Eastern Arc Mountains. Darwin Initiative. 1st July 2014 – 31st June 2017

£352,911

2014

PARROTNET: European network on invasive parakeets: Understanding invasion dynamics and risks to agriculture and society.  European Science Foundation, 1/1/2014-31/12/2017

£344,646
**

2013

Do parakeets in the UK hold the key to uncovering the genes responsible for climate adaptation? Doctoral Fellowship award, John Spedan Lewis Foundation. 1/10/2013-1/10/16

£90,000

2013

Development of population genetic markers for the Arabian leopard. Earthwatch                 

£8,603

2013

Population genetics of the endemic Aldabran Fody and introduced Madagascan fody. Seychelles Islands Foundation. 1/7/2013-16/10/2013 

£5,534

2013

Determining the evolutionary distinctiveness of the Seychelles black parrot – a phylogenetic approach. Seychelles Islands Foundation 1/9/2013-31/12/2013

£19,279

2012

A cutting-EDGE approach to saving Seychelles’ evolutionarily distinct biodiversity. DEFRA Darwin Initiative.

£256,085

2012

Ecology of non-native ring-necked parakeets (Psittacula krameri) in Europe. Funder: University of Antwerp. 26/01/2012 – 25/01/2013

£12,467

2012

Population genetics, inbreeding and metapopulation management of free-living and captive pink pigeon. Durrell. 26/01/2012 – 25/01/2013.

£10,000

2011

Use of DNA imagery in Art: DNA sequencing of the endangered plant Stinking Hawk’s Beard (Crepis foetida) for integration into local conservation art by Nicholette Goff.

£400

2011

From genes to environmental change: the spatial ecology of a tropical seabird; University of Reading. 6/4/2011 to 5/3/2012.

£35,596

2011

Melanocortin receptor 1 (MC1R) genes: systematics and evolution of colour in parrots. University of Kent Faculty Small grant. 21/5/2011-20/5/2012.

£1,000

2011*

Impact of habitat loss on the genetic structure of a declining population of the Mauritius lowland day gecko: implications for conservation. NERC NBAF-S#540. PI: Prof. S. Harris, Co-I: J. Groombridge. 28/9/2009-27/9/2012. 

£21,600

2011

Population genetics, inbreeding and disease in the red squirrel population on Jersey; JSPCA & States of Jersey. 1/4/2011-31/3/2012.         

£13,370

2011*

Do historical bottleneck effects out-weigh genetic consequences of reintroduction? – a test using Seychelles Paradise Flycatchers. NERC NBAF-S#559. 9/6/2011-8/6/2012.

£11,510

2011*

Invasive species and the ‘genetic rescue’ hypothesis: a test using the introduced UK population of rose-ringed parakeets. NERC NBAF-S#555. 14/4/2011-13/4/2012.    

£9,203

2010*

From genes to environmental change: the spatial ecology of a tropical seabird; NERC NBAF-S#446. Molecular genotyping of satellite-tagged petrels. 6/4/2011 to 5/12/2011.           

£20,703

2010

Conservation and reintroduction strategies for recovering the critically-endangered Maui Parrotbill (Pseudonestor xanthrophyrys). One of four named PIs on $907,153 US Fish and Wildlife Service SIDS grant.

£10,265

2010*

Phenotypic plasticity and management of native white-clawed crayfish populations. NERC NBAF-S#428. 31/9/2009-30/11/2010.

£10,000

2010

Is non-neutral genetic diversity retained or lost by island bird populations following severe historical bottlenecks? University of Kent Faculty Small Grant. 1/6/2010-31/5/2011.

£540

2010

Population genetics of native populations of white-clawed crayfish in the UK to guide their conservation management using ARK sites. Environment Agency, UK.

£6,000

2009*

Characterisation of the genomic structure of the Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) and T-Cell Receptor (TCR) in the endangered Mauritius parakeet. NERC NBAF-Liverpool Advanced Genomics Facility#258. 1/10/2008-31/9/2009.  

£8,000

2008

MHC diversity and emerging infectious disease in parrot populations on Mauritius. Leverhulme Trust research project grant. 28/4/2008-27/4/2011.         

£216,000

2008*

The effects of inbreeding on immune function and interactions with disease in endangered Mauritius bird populations. NERC NBAF-S#366. 31/9/2009-30/11/2010.

£25,355

2008

Effects of inbreeding on individual levels of immunocompetence within bottlenecked bird populations that are exposed to introduced pathogens. NERC CASE PhD studentship. 1/10/2008-31/9/2011.                                                                                         

£72,117

2006

Investing in island biodiversity: restoring the Seychelles Paradise Flycatcher. DEFRA Darwin Initiative grant. 1/9/2006-31/8/2009.

£234,000

2006

Radiocarbon dating of feather samples from ancient ceremonial feather cloaks from the Hawaiian islands AHRC/NERC Oxford Radiocarbon Facility Award. 8/6/2006-7/6/2007.        

£1,750

2006

Population genetics, inbreeding and disease in the endangered Mauritius parakeet. NERC CASE PhD studentship. 1/10/2006-31/9/2010.

£57,050

2005

Historical genetic profiles for extinct and surviving Hawaiian bird populations: genotyping feathers from 230-year-old ceremonial capes. NERC New Investigators Award. 1/3/2006-31/2/2007.

£51,725

2004

Searching for evidence of a historical population bottleneck in the Seychelles kestrel by using microsatellites to genotype 120-year-old pre-bottleneck museum specimens. Royal Society research grant. 6/3/2004-8/2/2006.      

£14,600

2004

Phylogeographic patterns of island radiation: Psittacula parakeets of the Indian Ocean. Research grant from The Systematics Research Fund/Linnean Society of London.
1/3/2004-28/2/2005.   

£1,200

2004

What island biota did Columbus see when he put ashore on the Virgin Islands in 1493? University of Kent Faculty Small Grant.

£900

    * Awards granting consumables/access to NERC Biomolecular Analysis Facility - Sheffield/Liverpool hubs
** Award value has increased in line with increasing number of participating EU countries (12 in 2014; 18 in 2015)
*** Total includes all funding, including research studentship awards & RCUK NERC BAF awards


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Facilities

The group benefit from 2 lab spaces containing excellent equipment for the analysis of genetic materials including:

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School of Anthropology and Conservation, Marlowe Building, The University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NR, T: +44 (0)1227 827056

Last Updated: 08/12/2017