UCL Division of Biosciences


GEE Friday Seminar - Dr Alexandra Jansen Van Rensburg, Research Fellow, CBER

11 February 2022, 3:00 pm–4:00 pm


Title: 'The Velocity of Evolutionary Responses of Species to Ecological Change'

Event Information

Open to

UCL staff | UCL students | UCL alumni




GEE Friday Seminar Organising Committee



Abstract: Predicting when and to what extent species will persist under rapidly changing climatic conditions is critical for mitigating biodiversity loss. However, species differ in their ability to respond to their changing environment, with some species successfully persisting or expanding their ranges, while other species' ranges are retracting. We use a multi-species approach to determine the similarities and differences in evolutionary responses to ecological change over the last century. DNA from historical (museum) and present-day individuals was used to generate whole genome sequencing data for 20 UK Lepidoptera species (7 stable, 7 expanding, 6 contracting). Given the high degree of synteny across Lepidopteran genomes, and the availability of high quality chromosome level genomes for each species, we can compare the extent of evolutionary change across the genome between all species. Specifically, we ask how much genetic diversity has changed over time, and if this differs between successful (stable or expanding) and vulnerable (declining) species. We also ask how much evolutionary change has occurred over time, and if this differs between successful and vulnerable species. 


About the Speaker

Dr Alexandra Jansen Van Rensburg

Research Fellow at UCL

I am a postdoctoral researcher in Jon Bridle's group where I work on the genomics of adaptation in several species of British butterflies and moths. 

I have an MSc in Evolutionary Biology from the University of Pretoria, South Africa supervised by Prof. Paulette Bloomer and Prof. Peter Ryan. I obtained my PhD in Evolutionary Biology from the University of Zurich, Switzerland under the supervision of Dr. Josh Van Buskirk. For my PhD I used environmental and genomic data from almost 100 populations of common frog (Rana temporaria) to compare the genomics of adaptation across similar environmental gradients in Switzerland and Sweden. 

More about Dr Alexandra Jansen Van Rensburg