2013-2017: PhD project – Coastal Forests of Eastern Africa

Biodiversity value and conservation of the Coastal Forests of East Africa

I conducted a large-scale study into amphibians found throughout the Coastal Forests of Eastern Africa (CFEA), a poorly understood global biodiversity hotspot. In 2013-2014 I collected tissue samples from across the entire coastal region in Tanzania, and with tissue loans from museums and collaborators I created a large DNA barcoding database of the CFEA. I used phylogenetic and spatial methods to pinpoint areas that are particularly important for endemic species and lineages, and assessed how well protected these are by the current protected area network. You can read the results of this project in the Diversity and Distributions paper here.

Additionally I used Next Generation Sequencing (RAD-seq) to elucidate the evolutionary relationships between highly differentiated populations belonging to seven species. I used high resolution data to delineate populations, build phylogenetic trees and perform demographic modelling to elaborate population history. I combined this with environmental data and ecological niche models to investigate diversification processes within the CFEA, particularly addressing whether divergence occurs due to ecological gradients, riverine barriers or forest refugia. This work is published in Molecular Ecology here.

Fig 1.png
The Coastal forests of Eastern Africa (CFEA) and adjacent Eastern Afromontane region (EAR).