Dr Xiangjiang Zhan
1. Phylogeny of the long-tailed pheasant, funded by Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) and supervised by Professor Zhengwang Zhang, Beijing Normal University (BNU)
In 2000, I firstly learned to track the Reeve’s pheasant with radio collars in Dongzhai National Bird Reserve, China, as well as collecting samples. In BNU, I finished constructing mitochondrial phylogenetics trees of the long-tailed pheasants (Zhan et al. 2005) and monals (Zhan et al. 2003). We found the evolutionary pattern of such species was in agreement with the geological history.
2. Population size estimation and dispersal of the giant panda, funded by Chinese Academy of Science, NSFC, and the Royal Society, and supervised by Professor Fuwen Wei (Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Science) and Professor Michael Bruford (School of Biosciences, Cardiff University)
Although the Chinese government and international organizations have spent millions of dollars on estimating the population size of giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca), the outcomes of such surveys have been debated because the methods used had uncertain ability to differentiate individuals. We finished the most detailed census of a giant panda population in the Wanglang Nature Reserve, China, using fecal microsatellite genotyping based on large-scale sampling and capture-recapture analysis. The genetic census estimate for this population is more than double that of the most detailed (3rd National) previous survey. This discrepancy is most likely due to the increased accuracy of molecular approach taken. If these results are repeated in other key reserves, it seems probable that there are many more giant pandas in the wild than previously thought (Zhan et al. 2006).
Dispersal in the giant panda is a demographic mechanism which can potentially counteract the negative effect of habitat fragmentation, but little is known about dispersal in this species due to difficulties in observing individuals. Using data from fecal microsatellite genotyping, we compared the spatial distribution of giant pandas in two populations and the proximity of relatives in one key population to infer their dispersal pattern. We conclude that giant pandas exhibit female-biased dispersal based on our macro and micro-ecology evidences (Zhan et al. 2007). Considering previous ecological data and life-history characteristics of the giant panda, female-biased dispersal is most likely to be due to competition for birth dens among females, inbreeding avoidance and enhancing inclusive fitness among related males. Knowledge of dispersal of the giant panda would be very helpful for the release, e.g. the gender of released individual, and habitat restoration, e.g. corridor building, for the giant panda.
3. Comparative phylogeography in the Greater Shangri-La region, funded by NSFC and the Royal Society.
Brief Description: by exploring the general biogeographic process in the Greater Shangri-La region, one of the most important biogeographic regions in the world, we aim to test related biogeographic hypotheses that are important in the biogeography of China and Eurasia and propose targeted strategy for conserving the Shangri-La.
Collaborator: Professor Fuwen Wei (Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Science) and Professor Michael Bruford (School of Biosciences, Cardiff University)
4. Population genetic assessment of the saker falcon, funded by the Environment Agency of Abu Dhabi and International Wildlife Consultants Ltd
Brief Description: using high precision molecular markers, we aim to assess some issues related to the population structure of the saker falcon, such as genetic introgression and identification of population units for conservation.
Collaborator: Professor Michael Bruford (School of Biosciences, Cardiff University)