Keynote Speakers

Peter Visscher | University of Queensland

29.jpgPeter Visscher is a quantitative geneticist with research interests focussed on a better understanding of genetic variation for complex traits in human populations, including quantitative traits and disease, and on systems genomics. The first half of his research career to date was predominantly in livestock genetics (animal breeding is applied quantitative genetics), whereas the last 15 years he has contributed to methods, software and applications to quantify the genetic architecture of human traits.

Talk title: Detection and quantification of the effect of selection and adaptation on complex traits

Anne Charmantier | University of Montpellier

2018-07-15a.LesSanguinaires (21)_Anne

Anne Charmantier is an evolutionary biologist interested in between-individual variation of life-history, morphological, and behavioural traits in natural populations. Her research is centred on understanding the ecological and evolutionary mechanisms underlying variation in these characters, with a special focus on rapid environmental changes. She has special interests on avian adaptation to climate change and to urbanisation.

Talk title: How do birds adapt to city life? From phenotypic differentiation to population genomics.

Richard Durbin | University of Cambridge

richardMy group works on genetic and evolutionary analysis of whole genome sequence data sets, using computational and mathematical approaches. Much of our research in the last five years has involved the discovery and analysis of human genetic variation using large data sets (1000 Genomes Project, UK10K, HGDP etc.), but more recently we have also begun working on the evolutionary genomics of other species, in particular cichlid fishes.

Talk title: Whole genome sequence based studies of the Lake Malawi cichlid fish radiation.


Alex Cagan | University of Cambridge

alexcagan_photoAlex Cagan is a geneticist interested in exploring evolutionary processes in the context of somatic tissues. He is particularly interested in how somatic evolution varies across the tree of life and the implications that this may have for cancer and ageing.  He combines laser capture microdissection with methods from comparative genomics to gain insights into how somatic mutation rates and processes may vary between species. He is also exploring ways to leverage the information that can be gained from studying somatic mutations for environmental monitoring. He is also scientific illustrator that will be sketching your talk. 


Romulus Abila | Maasai Mara University

Romulus Abila.jpgMy research interest is in the use of molecular tools to infer anthropogenic and possible climatic effects on biodiversity with special focus on the ichthyofaunal diversity in the tropics. We focus on impacts of changing environments and human activities on genetics of indigenous and aquaculture fish species in Kenya and how that can inform conservation of fish biodiversity and improved aquaculture development. Our second line of research interest is on the role of freshwater wetland ecosystem services in sustainable development.

Talk title: Molecular tools and the conservation of Lake Victoria Basin (LVB) ichthyofaunal biodiversity: Prospects, Opportunities and Challenges.

Sophie von der Heyden | University of Stellenbosch

Screen Shot 2019-02-11 at 8.52.02 AM.pngProf von der Heyden is a molecular ecologist working in aquatic systems (so she is really excited to be in Malawi). Her research is by necessity broad, but primarily focusses on the conservation and sustainable utilisation of species in marine environments. Her particular interests lie in the applicability of molecular ecological and genomics tools including next-generation sequencing and environmental DNA to inform marine spatial planning and conservation. She is interested in understanding resilience and adaptation of marine species to ongoing and future change, as well as the impacts of changing aquatic communities on society.

Naomi Wray | University of Queensland


My early training in Edinburgh, Cornell and Melbourne was in quantitative genetics applied to livestock. I worked on predicting inbreeding in populations under selection and estimation of mutational variance. Seventeen years ago, I transitioned into human genetics where my focus is prediction of genetic risk and quantitative genetic theory applied to disease. I will talk about analyses of DNA methylation data, drawing on our research with applications in twins, disease and environmental exposures.

Talk title: Interrogating and understanding variation associated with DNA methylation.

Cyprian Katongo | University of Zambia

I am currently interested in the fish systematics, ecology and evolution as well as in aquaculture. I have studied the phylogenetic relationships among the cichlid fish species of Zambian rivers and freshwater lakes. Working with colleagues, we have provided evidence of hybridization between the native Oreochromis andersonii and the alien O. niloticus. We  are currently preparing to carry out DNA bar-coding of the fish species of the Lower Zambezi River drainage from the Zambezi-Luangwa River confluence in Zambia to the Zambezi Delta in Mozambique to establish a base-line for their future monitoring, conservation and utilization.

Talk title: Morphological and genetic evidence of hybridization between native Oreochromis andersonii and the alien O. niloticus in the Kafue floodplains of the Zambezi River drainage.

Eline Lorenzen | Natural History Museum of Denmark

The Arctic has become one of the most contested geopolitical regions in the last decade due to loss of sea ice cover and the opening of seaways, and anticipated impacts on arctic marine ecosystems. Despite multiple studies on the impact of climate change on terrestrial mammals in the Arctic, there have been no equivalent studies of marine mammals. This remarkable gap in our knowledge is due to the difficulty of assembling long-term data sets because most marine mammals die at sea. Using preliminary genome-wide data from co-distributed populations of three endemic Arctic marine mammal species – polar bears, narhwals belugas and bowhead whales, I will demonstrate how population genomics can be used to estimate the distribution of genetic variants over time and space, reconstruct demographic histories, and identify candidate genes under positive selection that have enabled these species to adapt to the extreme conditions of life in the High Arctic. I will also discuss how DNA retrieved from a unique collection of rare ancient remains spanning the past 50,000 years can be used to infer the impact of past climatic events on these species, ultimately enabling us to better forecast faunal responses to near-future projections of human-induced climate change.

Talk title: Arctic marine mammals in a post-Arctic world