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Informing conservation of endangered species

Annabel Whibley is hoping the genomics work she has been doing in understanding traits that help species adapt to change will ultimately inform conservation of endangered species.

Annabel is a Senior Technologist at Auckland Genomics and a Genomics Aotearoa research fellow in the University of Auckland School of Biological Sciences. Her interests lie in systems that offer the potential to provide insights into the mechanisms of evolutionary processes.

Her work with a Genomics Aotearoa High Quality Genomes project uses sequence information from genomes in the threatened hihi (Notiomystis cincta) to better understand its genetic diversity.

Annabel Whibley portrait

The project is now beginning to inform management programmes for maximising breeding in what is a very small bird population -  Genomic data of different resolutions reveal consistent inbreeding estimates but contrasting homozygosity landscapes for the threatened Aotearoa New Zealand hihi.

Not only is this playing a part in its conservation, but the research has also much wider implications. Analysing the genomic sequence means the tools and processes are available for understanding genetic diversity and resilience in other species, which has important implications for conservation of New Zealand’s endangered taonga species.

Annabel’s current Marsden-funded research has also generated a draft genome of the Common or Indian myna (Acridotheres tristis).  It’s hoped this can be developed as a model system to investigate whether transposable element activity plays a key role in facilitating adaptation in invasive species.

She has also researched functional variants and genomic architectures that account for colour pattern differences in Antirrhinum (snapdragon) flowers and Heliconius butterfly wings.

“I’m fascinated by how adaptive traits evolve in natural populations, and my research increasingly leverages powerful genomics technologies in combination with more classical genetics approaches to address these questions,” she said. 

About Annabel
Prior to her work at the University of Auckland, Annabel has worked plant, insect, and clinical genomics.

As a postdoctoral researcher, she worked at the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology at the John Innes Centre, Norwich, UK, with the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France, and at the Cambridge Institute for Medical Research in the UK. She also worked in Clinical Molecular Genetics, at Guy's Hospital, London, UK.

Areas of expertise
•    Genetics and Genomics
•    Evolutionary Biology
•    Sequencing technologies and diagnostic methods


Find out more about High Quality Genomes and Population Genomics here