Through my interests and academic studies, I have been developing my knowledge and forging a path into the field of molecular ecology. During my BSc Genetics degree at Cardiff University, I undertook a Professional Training Year (PTY) at Dana Girang Field Centre, Sabah, Malaysian Borneo allowing me to develop ecological skills out in the field. Over the year I completed my own project looking at the perching sites utilised by different raptor species while being involved in assisting in a range of projects for fellow PTY students, as well as Master's and PhD students conducting research on a multitude of species (Frogs, Pigs, Primates etc). Following the PTY, my final year project consisted of conservation genetics study working on the critically endangered Ploughshare tortoise, producing a genetic database contributing to Durrell's Wildlife Conservation Trust breeding programme. The project involved genotyping microsatellite markers for captive and wild tortoises so that each individual can be identified in the face of the pet trade that is illegally decimating the species. With this database, we were also able to compare the captive population with wild tortoises to see if the captive population reflected the genetic diversity of that of the wild populations.
Now for my PhD in conjunction with SWBio DTP, I am undertaking a livestock genomics project studying domestic water buffalos adaptive potential and understanding their evolutionary biology.
LANDSCAPE GENOMICS OF BORNEAN WATER BUFFALOS
As climatic temperatures and pressures of food production increase, utilising productive and resilient livestock is vital. Domestic water buffalo are a well-adapted species to tropical Asia and remain productive in face of high temperatures, tropical diseases and parasites and on low quality feed. Despite these clear positive characteristics, water buffalo remain understudied and fall short of their potential as a livestock species. Water buffalo are found predominantly in Asia, and feature two subspecies: the river buffalo in India spreading West, and swamp buffalo in South East Asia. Both water buffalo subspecies are typically farmed by small-holding landowners as a source of milk and meat as well as a source of draught power with large farms uncommon. Recently, a water buffalo SNP array has been produced making population scale genomic research on water buffalos accessible. Expanding upon a publically worldwide dataset, we further genotype the populations of UK, India and Malaysia to:
- Carry out landscape genomics study to identify genetic markers linked to environmental and spatial variables to infer new and local adaptations
- Idenitify genetic markers under selection that are linked to genes important for livestock function
- Determine the evolutionary background surrounding water buffalo domestication
With this, we will provide new contributions to water buffalo breeding strategy to improve yields through genomic selection while maintaining important genetic variation of adaptive value.