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Wildlife Genomics Group

Conservation of our wildlife
The Australasian Wildlife Genomics Group studies the molecular genetics and evolution of gene families and genomes of our native wildlife.
The members of the Australian Wildlife Genomics Group

From left (back row): Daniel Kim, Vanessa Heffernan, Luke Silver, Holly Nelson, Carolyn Hogg, Kathy Belov, Elspeth McLennan, Konnie Gebauer, Patra Petrohilos, Kate Farquharson, Bethany Friend, Parice Brandies, Simon Tang. From left (front row): Jian Cui, Andrea Schraven, Yuanyuan Cheng, Emma Peel, Lauren Alexander, Kim Heasman, Adele Gonsalvez, Lucy Ockert

Our aims

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 and the NSW Government. Our research is also kindly supported by a number of partners including the Australian Wildlife Conservancy, Toledo Zoo and Aquarium, Amazon Web Services, RONIN, Illumina and the Ramaciotti Centre for Genomics.

Access to genomes and other genomic resources we generate as part of our research program can be accessed through the Amazon Web Services Open Data Sets program (https://awgg-lab.github.io/australasiangenomes/), requests for other data please contact the SOLES Australasian Wildlife Genomics Group (soles.wildlife-genomics@sydney.edu.au).

Our research

  • Comparative Genomics
  • Immunogenetics
  • Molecular Evolution
  • Conservation Genetics
  • Population Management

Our Projects

ARC Centre of Excellence for Innovations in Peptide and Protein Science (CIPPS)

The ARC Centre of Excellence for Innovations in Peptide and Protein Science is a national research centre. 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.

Threatened Species Initiative

The Threatened Species Initiative is a national initiative whose objective is to create a national library of genomics data 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.

Koala Genome Survey

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 here.

Bilby Genome Project

Bilbies are culturally important to Aboriginal Australians. Although its common name is derived from the Yuwaalayaay word, Bilba; we are working with the Kiwirrkurra Community and so use their name Ninu for the Greater bilby. 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 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.

Save the Tasmanian Devil Partners – some of the field teams

The Devil Tools and Tech Project

Working closely with the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program (STDP) we are studying the immunogenetics of Tasmanian devil facial tumour disease (DFTD), the evolutionary genetics of Tasmanian devils and DFTD, how to better manage the insurance metapopulation, and the impacts of undertaken supplementation of small populations of devils in the wild. 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. Our current ARC linkage, in collaboration with the STDP and the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance.

Image: Rosemary Gales

Integrating Molecular Genetics into Conservation Management

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.

 

Our people

  • Professor Kathy Belov, Head of Lab
  • Dr Carolyn Hogg, Senior Research Manager
  • Dr Emma Peel, Post-doctoral Research Associate
  • Dr Yuanyuan Cheng, Post-doctoral Research Associate
  • Dr. Elspeth McLennan, Post-doctoral Research Associate
  • Dr. Kate Farquharson, Post-doctoral Research Associate

Opportunities

For information about opportunities to study or collaborate with us, please contact Dr Carolyn Hogg on carolyn.hogg@sydney.edu.au

Carolyn Hogg

Research Manager
Address
  • R.M.C. Gunn B19

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News_

Getting to the guts of Tasmanian devil health

In the field with... Rowena Chong

PhD student Rowena Chong has had a lifelong love of wildlife, but it is the Tasmanian devil that captured her heart. She is researching the devils gut flora to better understand their overall health and improve future conservation efforts.