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Sarah du Plessis

PhD Candidate, Cardiff University

During my BSc in Zoology at Cardiff University, on a placement year I conducted a research project studying the habitat use of Samango monkeys in relation to their food availability, first sparking an interest in a career in research. For my dissertation I used genetics to assess the success of translocations of the critically endangered Bojer's skinks among the islands surrounding Mauritius, which was published in Conservation Genetics shortly after I graduated in 2017. In 2018 I started a Masters by Research at the University of Bristol looking at plant plasticity and roots under environmental stress, of two altitude-specific ragwort species found on Mt Etna, Sicily. I submitted this thesis and successfully defended it May 2020.

In October 2019 I returned to Cardiff to begin a PhD with the Cardiff University Otter Project and Molecular Ecology groups, using the newly sequenced otter reference genome and samples from the otter archive to study the demographic history of populations within the UK. During the pandemic I begun learning the skills required for population genomics, and initiated the collborations from which I have developed our range-wide whole genome dataset of 63 samples.

During my PhD I have spent time working at the Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute with one of my supervisors, Dr Klaus-Peter Koepfli, thanks to a Welsh Government Researcher Mobility Grant. I have also spent three months working at the Centre of Evolutionary Hologenomics, at the GLOBE Institute in Copenhagen with Prof Tom Gilbert learning about ancient and historic DNA lab and bioinformatic methods, thanks to an EMBO Scientific Exchange Grant.