Understanding population dynamics of threatened Caribbean mammals across space and time

This project is available from the academic year 2025/26 onwards.

Theme: Biodiversity, Ecology & Conservation

Primary Supervisor:

Samuel Turvey

Biodiversity and Macroecology Theme, IOZ

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Secondary Supervisor:

Mark Thomas

Genetics, Evolution and Environment, UCL

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Additional Supervisor(s):
Ian Barnes (Natural History Museum)
Selina Brace (Natural History Museum)
Rosalind Kennerley (Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust)

Project Description:

Caribbean mammals have experienced the world’s worst postglacial mammalian extinctions, with the Geocapromys hutias of Jamaica and the Bahamas among the few survivors. Both Geocapromys species are highly threatened and require robust evidence to guide conservation management, necessitating a multi-disciplinary approach. The project will employ genetic analyses of historical and modern samples (prehistoric archaeological collections, historical museum specimens, modern scat and tissue samples), obtained from existing collections and new fieldwork, to determine conservation-relevant population parameters, relationships and gene flow between hutias living in different landscapes, the population-level impacts of hunting and other pressures, and wider aspects of mammalian evolutionary dynamics on islands. This will be complemented by social-science approaches to understand local people’s knowledge and sustainability of interactions with hutias on Jamaica. These complementary lines of research will together reconstruct the status of hutia populations through time, identify priority areas for conservation, and directly guide new management strategies for these species on the brink (e.g. translocation planning).

Policy Impact of Research:

This project will establish a robust scientific evidence-based framework to guide practical recovery actions for two threatened mammal species, and will engage directly with national conservation planning and implementation in both Jamaica and the Bahamas (at governmental and other regional stakeholder levels). It will also be embedded within the IUCN SSC’s Small Mammal Specialist Group.

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