Under the leadership of Professor Kathy Belov and Dr Carolyn Hogg, the Australasian Wildlife Genomics Group studies the molecular genetics and evolution of gene families and genomes of our native wildlife. We are particularly interested in the immune system, discovery of novel peptides, conservation genetics and applications for conservation management.
Our research is funded by the Australian Research Council, the Australian Government’s Bushfire Recovery for Wildlife and their Habitats program, the NSW Government, Save the Tasmanian Devil Program, the Australian Wildlife Conservancy, Toledo Zoo and Aquarium, and San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance.
Our research is also kindly supported by a number of partners including the Bioplatforms Australia, Amazon Web Services, RONIN, Illumina, the Ramaciotti Centre for Genomics and the Zoo and Aquarium Association Australasia.
Genomes and other genomic resources that we generate as part of our research program can be accessed through the Amazon Web Services Open Data Sets program, requests for other data please contact the SOLES Australasian Wildlife Genomics Group.
Using a variety of DNA sequencing techniques, we have been generating genetic data to support the decision making of the management of a large number of threatened wildlife species in Australia. We have been working closely with government agencies, NGOs and conservation agencies across Australia.
The Threatened Species Initiative is a national initiative whose objective is to generate genomics resources for some of Australia’s most threatened species and develop tools to support decision-making for biodiversity conservation.
In collaboration with Bioplatforms Australia, Australian Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment (DAWE) and the WA Department of Biodiversity Conservation and Attractions, we are generating genome resources and associated population data, and developing an online toolkit to assist non-geneticists in analysing and interpreting their genetic data for conservation action.
The program brings together genome biologists, population biologists, bioinformaticians, population geneticists and zoologists with conservation agencies across Australia, including government, zoos and NGOs.
In collaboration with the NSW and Australian Governments, we are using the latest Illumina whole genome sequencing at the Ramaciotti Centre for Genomics to generate 30X coverage genomes for over 450 koalas across the east coast of Australia.
The findings of this survey will be used in koala management to identify areas of unique genetic variation, understand the adaptive potential of the species, investigate the interplay between functional genes and disease, reproduction and climate change, and inform management actions in relation to future translocations.
The fastq files from this survey is publicly available on the Amazon Web Services Open Data Sets.
Together with other members of Team Bilby, we have generated a chromosome-length assembly and have a suite of 13 tissues transcriptomes. Using our resequenced genomes we have compared temperate dwelling ninu (greater bilby) to arid dwelling ninu and have data from the extinct yallara (lesser bilby).
Through this project we are able to investigate the genetic basis of the chorioallontoic placenta, taste receptors and genes associated with metabolism in this omnivorous, arid marsupial.
Working closely with the National Recovery Team Metapopulation Committee we have generated genetic resources for all ninu behind fences or on islands, directly informing management translocations.
Using scat samples in partnership with the Kiwirrkurra Community Rangers, we are investigating their ninu populations in the Pilbara region and providing answers to their management questions.
Together with several recovery teams, and the Zoo and Aquarium Association Australasia, we are working with some of Australia’s most endangered species (such as the orange-bellied parrot, plains wanderer, handfish) to integrate the use of molecular genetics into conservation management and species recovery programs.
We study the connection between genes and immune responses in wildlife species to better understand the pathogen susceptibility of wildlife, offer insights into evolutionary adaptations to pathogens and inform wildlife management strategies.
Working closely with the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program (STDP), we are genome-wide diversity and immunogenetics in Tasmanian devils to better understand devil facial tumour disease (DFTD), the evolutionary genetics of Tasmanian devils and DFTD, how to better manage the insurance metapopulation, and the impacts of supplementing small populations of devils in the wild with genetically different devils.
DFTD has led to the loss of over 80% of devils, yet populations are persisting in wild. These wild populations are now susceptible to small population pressures, which may lead to the extinction of the species in the wild.
This research is currently supported by an ARC linkage, in collaboration with the STDP and the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance.
The ARC Centre of Excellence for Innovations in Peptide and Protein Science (CIPPS) is a national research centre in collaboration with the University of Queensland, Australian National University, Monash University, CSIRO and others.
CIPPS’ vision is to discover new proteins and peptides from Australia’s unique flora and fauna, decode their biological functions, and develop new proteins to address challenges in science, agriculture, biotechnology, engineering, health sciences.
Together with our industry partners and international collaborators we are working to unleash the power of peptides and proteins for the benefit of humankind.
We are developing research and outreach programs to promote peptide and protein science and are deeply committed to nurturing the next generation of researchers. The AWGG is co-leading the Discover theme of CIPPS.
For information about our research and opportunities to work or collaborate with the Australasian Wildlife Genomics Group, contact us or visit our research website.
Header image: provided by Toledo Zoo and Aquarium.