All of the projects undertaken has a strong focus on understanding spatial genetic patterns in a variety of landscapes, using molecular sequence data, variable microsatellite markers as well as genomic tools.

Projects based in (southern) Africa

  1. Using small mammal taxa as models, various projects investigate the spatial genetic patterns across different spatial scales across southern Africa. These projects include understanding the genetic neighbourhood and dispersal distance at local spatial scales (typically tens to hundreds of meters) to understanding genetic patterns across the distribution of species (phylogeography as defined by John Avise). Models species include gerbils, elephant shrews, as well as subterranean mole-rats.
  2. Large proportion of South African biodiversity is privately owned. The high commercial value of game species often leads to animals being translocated across large geographic distances, often in the absence of accurate scientific data documenting genetic patterns. Understanding whether important game species are genetically structured across their African ranges inform conservation and management strategies.  Also, many of these species are selectively bred for specific desired traits; using game species as a model, we aim to understand the impact of selective breeding and translocations on the genetic diversity and health of populations.

Projects based in the Southern Ocean

  1. Oceanic islands are ideal natural laboratories to study spatial diversity. This is because the ecosystems on these islands are typically more simple than those on mainlands, and populations occur within well-defined geographic barriers. Our previous work on the sub-Antarctic Prince Edward Islands indicated that the spatial patterns in a variety of arthropods and plant species are more complex than previously anticipated, with higher levels of diversity than expected. Using selected springtail and mite species as models, we study the spatial patterns at fine scale as well as the scale of the island. We interpret our findings in light of the current climate and abiotic history of the island.
  2. Invasive species are widely recognized as a major threat to biodiversity. Although Antarctica and many of the Southern Ocean islands remain relatively pristine, increased human visits inadvertently lead to the introduction of alien species. Understanding how these alien species occupy and spread provide important information to manage them. Using the sub-Antarctic Marion Island as model, we document the spatial patterns of genetic diversity in a variety of invasive arthropod species, and by comparing these patterns to those of native species, aim to understand more about the invasion biology of species in the Southern Ocean.
  3. Understanding biogeography of the Antarctic: A large multi-national collaborative effort to understand the functional biodiversity of selected taxa distributed across the region. See http://antarcticbiogeography.org/
Centre for Ecological Genomics and Wildlife Conservation - University of Johannesburg
Centre for Ecological Genomics and Wildlife Conservation - University of Johannesburg