Professor Mike Bruford FLSW

Professor Mike Bruford


Co-director Sustainable Places Research Institute

School of Biosciences

+44 (0)29 2087 4312
+44 (0)29 2087 4116
Sir Martin Evans Building, Museum Avenue, Cardiff, CF10 3AX
Media commentator

I am a molecular ecologist interested in studying the demographic and evolutionary processes affecting populations, species and ecosystems of conservation concern. My group focuses on elucidating the determinants of genomic diversity, population structure and fitness at a variety of spatio-temporal scales. These include studying the behaviour and movements of individuals within their breeding territories, examining how demography and social structure interact with genetic diversity in fragmented ecosystems through to understanding the partitioning of genomic diversity in species with high vagility and continent-wide ranges. We focus our projects on trying to understand basic evolutionary processes in endangered species but we also place substantial emphasis on  provision of data and recommendations to management authorities for action and policy development.

We study a combination of wild and domestic species such as livestock breeds, for which demographic history is often well understood and where genome resources are abundant. We use methods from forensic DNA profiling through to whole genome sequencing and we integrate these data with landscape analysis (GIS) and genealogical and stochastic population modeling in an effort to provide comprehensive information for biodiversity management and conservation. Much of our work is carried out in collaboration with applied conservation organisations, including the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, Bristol Zoo, the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, the Ryeland and Lleyn Sheep Societies. We also work directly within and in collaboration with the IUCN Species Survival Commission, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation and Welsh Government.

I did my PhD at the University of Leicester on the development of DNA fingerprinting techniques in birds and genome mapping in chickens using minisatellite DNA markers between 1986 and 1990. Between 1990 and 1999 I worked as a postdoctoral research associate, research fellow and then Head of Conservation Genetics at the Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London. I joined Cardiff University in 1999 and led the Organisms and Environment Division between 2010 and 2015. I am currently a co-Director of the University's Sustainable Places Research Institute, where I am involved in a variety of projects linking natural and social sciences in place-based sustainability research.

I  am on the editorial boards of Royal Society Open Science, Conservation Genetics Resources, Frontiers in Genetics, Integrative Zoology and Endangered Species Research. I have previously served on the editorial review board for Molecular Ecology and was a founding editor for the journal Animal Conservation. I served as Editor-in-Chief of Heredity between 2012 and 2016.

I am academic lead for the Wales Biodiversity Partnership's Evidence Gaps Project and regularly serve on grant panels in the UK (NERC), Finland (Finnish Academy) and for the European Commission (Horizon 2020).I was awarded the Zoological Society of London's Scientific Medal in 2003, was elected a Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales in 2010 and I was a Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award holder (2012-2016). I am co-Chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission's Conservation Genetics Specialist Group (2015-2020).































  • Bruford, M. al. 1990. Hypervariable markers in the chicken genome. Presented at: 4th World Congress on Genetics applied to Livestock Production, Edinburgh, Scotland, 23-27 July 1990 Presented at Hill, W. G., Thompson, R. and Woolliams, J. A. eds.Proceedings of the 4th World Congress on Genetics Applied to Livestock Production : Edinburgh, 23-27 July, 1990, Vol. XIII. Edinburgh: Organising Committee, 4th World Congress on Genetics Applied to Livestock Production pp. 139-142.



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).

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.


Congress project

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.

Nextgen project

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 project

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:

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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)