mardi 9 février 2010

Conservation, ecology and genetics of the Cape Verde warbler

The Cape Verde Warbler is an endangered passerine endemic to the Cape Verde islands. The last population of this species was believed to be confined to one island but recently populations have been discovered on two other isolated islands and the global population is estimated at ca. 1,000 birds. However the relationship between the three surviving populations, currently considered one species, has not yet been assessed. It would not be surprising, given the distances involved, if the warblers from each island are substantially different from each other. If so this could be important in determining management units and conservation priorities. Equally divergence between the populations could present opportunities, e.g. if effects of inbreeding can be reduced through genetic restoration. Before a program of conservation can be put into place for this species, levels of population differentiation need to be assessed. The PhD will investigate the amount and type of differentiation between the three populations of the warbler by assessing variation in biologically important characteristics; morphology, song, and genetics. The study will assess within and between population levels of genetic variation using both neutral markers (microsatellites) and functional markers (MHC genes) using tools already developed. The information we gather will help us determine how divergent the three populations are and assess how genetically viable each one is. This information will be used to help inform the future conservation and management of this species. It will also allow us to assess its’ use as a model system in which to explore questions in evolutionary ecology and conservation genetics. The issue of how much, and what type of, genetic variation is maintained in small bottlenecked populations of endangered species is an important question in contemporary conservation. Training will be provided in molecular methods, evolutionary theory, statistical modelling and ornithological fieldwork.

Funding Notes
Funding may be available for UK/EU students. If funding is awarded for this project it will cover tuition fees and stipend for UK students. EU students may be eligible for full funding, or tuition fees only, depending on the funding source. International students will not be eligible for this funding however they are still welcome to apply for this project but would have to find alternative funding.

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HANSSON, B. & RICHARDSON, D. S. (2005) Genetic variation in two endangered Acrocephalus species compared to a widespread congener: estimates based on functional and random loci. Animal Conservation, 8, 83-90.
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