Professor Mike Bruford
Co-director Sustainable Places Research Institute
I am a molecular ecologist interested in studying the demographic and evolutionary processes affecting populations, species and ecosystems of conservation concern. We focus on understanding the determinants of genomic diversity, population structure and fitness across species and at a variety of spatio-temporal scales, including 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 but we place substantial emphasis on provision of data and recommendations to management authorities for action and policy development.
Our work includes wild and domestic species, including 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 integrate these data with environmental data 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, The Wildfowl and Wetlands 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).
I teach Evolutionary Biology, Biodiversity Conservation and Applied Genetics (first and second year biological sciences), Animal Diversity (primates - second year biological sciences), a large portion of the Biodiversity and Conservation Biology module (third year biological sciences) and participate in the Rainforest Biodiversity Assessment field course we run at Danau Girang Field Centre at the end of Year 2 Biological Sciences.
My research focuses on the application of molecular genetics and genomics to the conservation of endangered species and livestock. We try to understand how genetic diversity evolves in small populations, the role that local adaptation plays in this evolution and its consequence for conservation biology and management. Research in this field must be collaborative and our projects are based in countries including China (collaborators: Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences), Malaysia (Danau Girang Field Centre, Sabah Wildlife Department) and South Africa (Universities of Pretoria and Venda, National Zoological Gardens of South Africa).
We have focused on using molecular data in elusive species to assist direct conservation management questions. 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.
I am also interested in zoological biobanking for conservation and research and have been a Trustee and now Director of the Frozen Ark project ( www.frozenark.org ) and we recently have been awarded funding from the BBSRC's BBR program to establish a UK-wide zoological biobank for research and conservation, called CryoArks (2018 - 2021).
BBSRC BBR funded project led by Cardiff University (Mike Bruford with Mafalda Costa) to eastablish a zoological biobanking network for the UK. Partners including the Natural History Museum (Co-Is Aidan Emery and Tim Littlewood with Jackie Mackenzie Dodds and Kirsty Lloyd), the National Museums of Scotland (Co-I Andrew Kitchener with Gill Murray-Dickson), Nottingham University (Co-I Lisa Yon), Edinburgh University (Co-I Rob Ogden) and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (WildGenes lab, Edinburgh Zoo, Helen Senn also with Gill Murray Dickson). Our project has the backing and involvment of the European Association and the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums and from many museums and many universities and research institutes around the UK. We aim to double the UK collection of zoological specimens in three years and to make these discoverable for conservation and research using the Specify database system ( http://www.sustain.specifysoftware.org ) and to provide the undepinning frozen infrastructure to sustainably and responsibly manage these resources into the future. Our website will be available in January 2019. Project runs 1/7/2018 - 30/6/2021.
G-Bike is a COST action project (CA18134), coordinated by Dr Cristiano Vernesi (Fundazione Edmund Mach, Trento, Italy) that builds on our ConGRESS project (see below) to provide a framework for the introduction and utilisation of genomic data into conservation management strategies and actions across Europe. Cardiff (Prof Mike Bruford) is one of the UK's two Management Committee members. The project will run from April 2019 - March 2022.
The Climgen project (Climate Genomics for Farm Animal Adaptation - https://climgen.bios.cf.ac.uk ) was led by Cardiff University (Mike Bruford, Pablo Orozco-terWengel, Isa-Rita Russo) and ran from 2015 - 2018 funded as a Coordination and Support Action project by bthe European Commission. The project focuses on the development of tools and analysis of existing data for livestock populations experiencing climatic extremes across Eurasia and the tropics. The project has partners in Italy (Licia Colli, Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Piacenza and Filipo Biscarini, Parco Tecnologico di Padano), Romania (Agriculture and Veterinary University of Cluj Napoca, Augustin Vlaic, Antonia Odagiu, Bogdan Vlaic), Finland (LUKE, Juha Kantanen, Kisun Pokharel, Ismo Stranden), Spain (Complutense University of Madrid, Susana Dunner, Javier Canon, Natalia Sevane - who was a Marie Curie Fellow in Cardiff at the same time on the project AdaptClim) and France (Francois Pompanon).
As part of out policy and management activities, we coordinated an EU Framework 7 Support Action Project ConGRESS which provides genetic information in a user-friendly and well-used web portal ( http://www.congressgenetics.eu/Default.aspx ) to policy-makers and biodiversity managers across the European Union. The project involved 13 partners across the EU and end-users from 19 countries, whose input guided the development of the portal during 2012 and 2013. The website is still active and is providing a template for a number of similar initiatives.
As conservation is becoming more focused on genome-level analysis, whole genome-based population and evolutionary genetic analysis is now routinely used in conservation programs. We participated in the Nextgen Framework 7 project (http://nextgen.epfl.ch/), coordinated by Prof Pierre Taberlet, Universite Grenoble-Alpes and our research focused 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.
Falcon Genome project
Our long-term project on falcon genomics involves collaboration with the Institue of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences Beijing (Prof Xiangjiang Zhan), the Abu Dhabi Falconer's Club (Dr Andrew Dixon). Cardiff University and IoZ have a joint laboratory on biocomplexity research and Mike Bruford was a President's International Fellow, spending three months in Beijing in 2018.
Peregrine and saker falcon genome resources:
Note: if required please use username 'nopriv' and password 'bruford' to access the above downloads.
Our work has been supported by:
- The Royal Society
- The European Commission
- The Environment Agency Abu Dhabi
- The Leverhulme Trust
Examples within the School and University include:
- Dr Pablo Orozco terWengel: livestock genomics, population genetics of endangered species (Ryland Sheep Society, Durrell, Zoological Society of London, PhD students Jody Leigh Edmunds, Dan Pitt)
- Dr Frank Hailer: carnivore landscape genetics and genomics (PhD student Nia Thomas, MRes student Will Littlejohn)
- Dr Benoit Goossens: conservation genetics and landscape management of the Kinabtangan Wildlife Sanctuary (PhD students Senthilvel Nathan and Juan Manual Aguilar Leon, Danau Girang Field Centre)
- Prof Susan Baker (Sustainable Places Research Institute), Dr TC Hales (School of Earth and Ocean Sciences), Dr Leanne Cullen-Unsworth, Dr Poppy Nicol: resilience in coupled natural-social systems
Other external examples include:
- Prof Tamas Szekely (University of Bath): Landscape genetics of wetland birds (PhD student Josie Jackson)
- Professor Fuwen Wei (Chinese Academy of Sciences, Institute of Zoology): Landscape genetics of giant pandas (PhD student Tianxiao Ma).
- Dr Grainne McCabe (Bristol Zoo): conservation genetics of the Sanje Mangabey, Udzungwa Mountains, Tanzania (PhD student Christina Paddock)
- Prof Yoshan Moodley (University of Venda) and Prof Love Dalen (Swedish Museum of Natural History): Population and conservation genomics of the black rhinoceros (Dr Isa Rita Russo)
- Dr Mafalda Costa (CryoArks project)
- Dr Isa-Rita Russo (Climgen project and black rhino genomics)
- Dr Maria Joana Ferreira da Silva (FCT funded Conservation genomics of west African primates)
- Dr Robyn Shaw (Australian Endeavour Fellowship on landscape genomics of natal multi-mammate mouse)
- Juan Manuel Aguilar Leon (CONCYTEC, Peru - anuran diversity in the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary)
- Christina Paddock (NERC iCASE - Bristol Zoo Gardens - conservation genomics of the Sanje Mangabey)
- Nia Thomas (NERC GW4 - with Dr Liz Chadwick and Frank Hailer at Cardiff and Prof Robbie Macdonald at Exeter Falmouth - landscape genetics of a recovering otter population)
- Josie Jackson (NERC GW4 - Bath University with Dr Tamas Szekely - population genomics of African jacanas) - JUST GRADUATED
- Isa Pais (FCT with Dr Tania Minhos, New University of Lisbon - chimpanzee and colobine dietary diversity in Sierra Leone and Guine Bissau)
- Sen Nathan (Danau Girang Field Centre - population genetics of Sabah's proboscis monkeys)
- Paul Robinson (self-funded, with Dr Rob Thomas - avian diversity as a function of protected area status in northern Sierra Leone)
I have supervised or co-supervised a total of 54 PhD students to completion. Most recently, these have included those funded via the NERC GW4+ Doctoral Training Program (Josie Jackson - project on Madagascan jacanas with Bath University), The Cardiff University President's studentship scheme (Hannah Macdonald - project on freshwater macroinvertebrate diversity), NERC's iCASE program (Dave Stanton - project on okapi conservation genetics with ZSL) and the Sardinian government's Master and Back scheme (Mario Barbato and Pierfrancesco Sechi - projects on Sardinian mouflon genomics and earthworm phylogeography, respectively).