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Personal profile

My research in a nutshell

I principally use genetic data to inform conservation management of wildlife (animals, birds, fish, plants) and to support wildlife crime investigations.


I am Chair in Conservation Science at the University of Edinburgh, where I hold the positions of Director of Conservation Science and Head of Conservation Genetics at the Veterinary School and the Roslin Institute.  My work in applied conservation genetics includes maintaining an international research programme, directing an online Masters degree programme and taking an active role in the IUCN SSC Conservation Genetics Specialist Group.  I also work more broadly in applied conservation science through my role as the Director of ECOS (Edinburgh Conservation Science), a cross-institutional forum for promoting the transfer of science into conservation projects and policy. 

I am a past-president of the Society for Wildlife Forensic Science (2015-19), and am a director and co-founder of TRACE Wildlife Forensics Network, an NGO that supports the application of forensic science to wildlife law enforcement around the world.

Prior to joining the University of Edinburgh in 2017, I worked as a visiting professor at Kyoto University (2015-16) and was previously based at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (2011-15), where I held the positions of Head of Science and Director of Conservation.

Research Interests

For the past fifteen years I have worked as a population geneticist and molecular ecologist, focusing my research on the development and application of genetic tools to conservation management and wildlife law enforcement (forensics). My particular interest lies in working at the interface between academic enquiry and application, bridging the gap between novel scientific developments and the needs of conservation end-users.

A common theme to my work has been the transfer of genome-wide technologies from veterinary medicine and agriculture to non-model wildlife species, starting with the cross-species amplification of SNP microarrays, through a variety of genome complexity reduction techniques (cDNA, RAD, ddRAD) and moving recently into de novo whole genome sequence assembly. I use these techniques to understand fundamental species ecology and apply these approaches across the conservation spectrum, from captive breeding, reintroduction genetics and the management of small populations in the wild, to traceability and DNA forensics.  As our understanding of genomic and post-genomic processes develops across multiple species, I am keen to work towards the development of functional genomic tool kits for conservation management.

My research has led to involvement in a broad range of wildlife conservation projects. I am involved in captive breeding work in European, US and Japanese zoo associations and extensive wildlife breeding facilities in Arabia.  Beyond the genetics of captive bred populations, I have worked on reintroduction projects (genetic selection of founders, e.g. red squirrel, oryx, beaver) and on the conservation of endangered natural populations, typically via non-invasive DNA sampling. For example, the use of faecal sampling in Chad and Niger has enabled DNA analysis of the few remaining wild dama gazelle, while the use of molted feathers as a DNA source has allowed us to investigate the ecology of golden eagles and the invasive ring-necked parakeet.

As a wildlife forensic scientist, I use DNA techniques to investigate the illegal trade in endangered species and also train scientists around the world; in this role I am currently engaged in projects in over ten countries in Southeast Asia and Africa, as well as being a Director of the Society for Wildlife Forensic Sciences. Since 2008, I have also been heavily involved in the development and application of fisheries tracaeability and forensic techniques to help address the problems of Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing.  

Education/Academic qualification

Molecular Ecology, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Bangor University

1 Oct 199930 Sept 2002

Award Date: 1 Nov 2002

Marine Biology, Bachelor of Science, University of Liverpool

30 Sept 199430 Jun 1997

Award Date: 30 Jun 1997

External positions

Director, Edinburgh Conservation Science

1 Jan 2018 → …

Scientific Advisory Committee Expert Panel, SNH, Scottish Natural Heritage

1 Jun 2017 → …

Member, IUCN SSC Conservation Genetics Specialist Group

1 Jan 2016 → …

Director, Society for Wildlife Forensic Science

30 Jun 2015 → …

Special Professor, Kyoto University

1 Apr 2015 → …

Honorary Research Associate, Bangor University

1 Jan 2007 → …

Director, TRACE Wildlife Forensics Network

1 Oct 2006 → …


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