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Prof Mike Bruford FLSW  -  PhD

My research focuses on the application of molecular genetics and genomics to the conservation of endangered species and livestock breeds. My groups seeks to understand how genetic diversity evolves in small populations, the role that local adaptation plays and its consequence for conservation biology and management. Research in this field is necessarily collaborative in nature and our projects are based in countries including China (Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences), Gabon (Wildlife Conservation Society and University of New Orleans), Peru (CONOPA and San Marcos University), Abu Dhabi (Environment Agency of Abu Dhabi and International Wildlife Consultants, Carmarthen, Wales) and Malaysia (Danau Girang Field Centre, HUTAN, Universiti Malaysia Sabah, Sabah Wildlife Department).

Journal cover featuring a giant panda

We have particularly focused on using molecular data in elusive species to assist direct conservation management questions, particularly in great apes and other conservation flagship species. Implementation of conservation management plans for such species has strong implications for the viability of other species inhabiting the same ecosystems and such ‘flagship’ organisms can provide umbrella protection for biodiversity as a whole, yet the biology of long-lived and enigmatic organisms such as the giant panda and Bornean orang-utan is surprisingly poorly understood. Our recent research on these organisms was recognized in Discover magazine’s top 100 scientific breakthroughs for 2006, where two of our studies (Goossens et al 2006; Zhan et al 2006) were recognized.


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As part of out policy and management activities, we coordinate the EU Framework 7 Support Action Project ConGRESS (, which aims to provide genetic information in a user-friendly web portal to policy-makers and biodiversity managers across the European Union. The project involves 13 partners across the EU (see map below) and end-users from 19 countries, whose input is guiding the development of the portal during 2012 and 2013. Responsible scientist: Dr Isa-Rita Russo.

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Our work is becoming more focused on genome-level analysis, as whole genome-based population and evolutionary genetic analysis becomes feasible due to recent technical advances in sequencing and bioinformatics. We are participating in the Nextgen project (, coordinated by Prof Pierre Taberlet, Universite Joseph Fourier, Grenoble and our research focuses on genome-wide analysis of local adaptation in Moroccan sheep, systematically sampled across an extreme environmental gradient (temperature, rainfall) north and south of the Atlas mountains. Responsible scientist: Dr Pablo Orozco-TerWengel, also visiting scientist from University del Bio Bio, Chile - Dr Juan-Carlos Marin and Sardinian government PhD student Mario Barbato.


Falcon Genome logo


While domestic livestock species have well-established genome resources available for studies of local adaptation, most wild species lack such resources and genome sequences must be first developed de novo. We are collaborating with International Wildlife Consultants ( and the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi to establish these resources for two iconic and heavily traded falcons, the peregrine and saker. We are collaborating with BGI-Shenzhen ( to sequence the genomes of these two species, and provide the baseline resources for studies of local adaptation across the vast geographic ranges that both species occupy. Responsible scientist: Dr Xiangjiang Zhan.

Associated files:

Note: if required please use username 'nopriv' and password 'bruford' to access the above downloads.


Our work is currently supported by:

  • The Royal Society
  • The European Commission
  • The Environment Agency Abu Dhabi
  • The Leverhulme Trust
  • NERC


Examples within the School and University include:

Prof Bill Symondson: dietary diversity and population structure of cave-dwelling bats in the Kinabatangan catchment (PhD student Azniza Mahyudin, Malaysian government)

Dr Peter Kille and Prof A John Morgan: native and invasive earthworm population dynamics, local adaptation and heavy metal soils (NERC, Leverhulme Trust, PhD student Pierfrancesco Sechi, Sardinian government)

Prof Steve Ormerod and Dr T Hefin Jones: genetic diversity, ecosystem resilience and climate change (PhD student Hannah Burton, Cardiff University President’s Scholarship)

Dr Benoit Goossens: conservation genetics of proboscis monkeys and Bornean banteng (PhD students Senthilvel Nathan and Penny Gardner, Danau Girang Field Centre)

Dr Isabelle Durance, Prof Susan Baker (School of Social Sciences), Prof Ian Hall (School of Earth and Ocean Sciences): resilience in coupled natural-social systems (Cardiff University Sustainable Places Research Institute)

Prof Susan Baker (School of Social Sciences): Socio-Ecological Analysis of Natural Resource Governance: The Management of Scale, Interplay and Fit in Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, Malaysia (ESRC/NERC PhD student Richard Bloor)

Other external examples include:

Prof Tamas Szekely (University of Bath): Landscape genetics of Madagascan wetland birds (Leverhulme Trust Postdoctoral scientist Eddie Brede)

Professor Fuwen Wei (Chinese Academy of Sciences, Institute of Zoology): Population genetics and phylogeography of keystone species in the greater Shangri-la ecoregion. (Royal Society, Chinese NSFC Postdoctoral Researcher Xiangjiang Zhan).

Dr Jane Wheeler, Professor Raul Rosadio (CONOPA and the University of San Marcos, Lima, Peru): Conservation of genetic resources in South American camelids. (Darwin Initiative, Cardiff University)

Drs Jinliang Wang, John Ewen, Noelle Kumpfel, Linda Penfold, John Hart (Zoological Society of London, White Oaks Conservation Centre, Bonobo in Congo): Range-wide genetic analysis of the okapi (NERC CASE PhD student Dave Stanton)

Drs Yoshan Moodley and Paul O’Donoghue (Konrad Lorenz Institute for Ethology, University of Chester): Population and conservation genetics of the black rhinoceros (International Rhino Foundation postdoctoral researcher Isa Rita Russo)

Prof Margarida Santos Reis (Centre for Environmental Biology, University of Lisbon): Landscape and population genetics of Portuguese carnivores (Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology)

Research Group


Dr Edward Brede (Leverhulme Trust-funded Postdoctoral Researcher)

Dr Pablo Orozco-TerWengel (EC-funded Postdoctoral Researcher)

Dr Juan-Carlos Marin (visiting from University of Bio Bio, Chile)

Dr Isa-Rita Russo (South African NRF Fellow)  

Dr Xiangjiang Zhan (Environment Agency Abu Dhabi-funded Postdoctoral Researcher)   

PhD Students  

Mario Barbato (Sardinian Government)

Mafalda Basto (FCT, Portugal, co-supervised with Prof Margarida Santos-Reis, University of Lisbon)

Hannah Burton (Cardiff University, President’s Scholarship, co-supervised with Prof Steve Ormerod and Dr T Hefin Jones)

Mafalda Costa (FCT, Portugal, co-supervised with Prof Margarida Santos-Reis, University of Lisbon)

Robert Donnelly (Leverhulme Trust, University of Glamorgan, co-supervised with Prof A John Morgan)

Azniza Mahyudin (Malaysian Government, cosupervised with Prof Bill Symondson)

Niall McCann (BBSRC CASE with Operation Wallacea, co-supervised with Dr Phil Wheeler, University of Hull)

Tania Minhos (FCT, Portugal, co-supervised with Dr Catarina Casanova, New University of Lisbon)

Rui Sa (FCT, Portugal, co-supervised with Dr Claudia Sousa, New University of Lisbon)

Pierfrancesco Sechi (Sardinian Government, co-supervised with Dr Peter Kille)

Joana Silva (FCT, Portugal, co-supervised with Dr Catarina Casanova, New University of Lisbon)

Dave Stanton (NERC CASE with the Zoological Society of London, co-supervised with Drs Jinliang Wang and John Ewen)