UCL Division of Biosciences


CBER Seminar - Dr Alexandra Jansen Van Rensburg, UCL

07 March 2022, 1:00 pm–2:00 pm


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

Event Information

Open to

UCL staff | UCL students | UCL alumni




Amy Godfrey



Abstract: Predicting where and in which communities species will persist in the novel environmental conditions of coming decades depends on understanding maximum rates and patterns of evolutionary responses. However, populations and species differ in their ability to evolve in response to their changing environment, with some species maintaining or expanding their geographical ranges in response to recent climate change, while other species' ranges are retracting rapidly. We are using a multi-species approach in UK Lepidoptera to investigate patterns of evolutionary responses to environmental change over the last century, and their effects on species’ distributions in time and space. DNA from the Natural History museum and recent UK collections has been used to generate whole genome sequencing data for populations of 20 UK Lepidoptera species (7 stable, 7 expanding, 6 contracting). Using these data we compare the pattern and extent of evolutionary change across the genome, and its effects on species’ distributions since the 1920s and across their geographical ranges today. Specifically, we ask how genetic diversity has changed over time, and how this differs between successful (stable or expanding) or vulnerable (declining) species. We also test for historical changes in population size, and evidence for selection across the genome within and among species.

About the Speaker

Dr Alexandra Jansen Van Rensburg

Research Fellow at UCL, CBER

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