Rachel Hester

Rachel Hester

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Rachel Hester

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Start Year

2021 (Cohort 8)

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PhD Project
PhD Title

Geographic profiling the invasion of alpine newts and the amphibian pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis

Research Theme

Biodiversity, Ecology and Conservation

Primary Supervisor
Primary Institution


Secondary Supervisor
Secondary Institution



Biological invasions are one of the primary drivers of global biodiversity decline, and can have detrimental economic and societal impacts. The spread of invasive species to novel regions is fuelled by globalisation and trade, with many introductions being both deliberatively and accidentally facilitated by humans. Amphibians have become established outside of their native range through a number of different routes, from accidental pet escapes to intentional introductions for pest control. In the UK, there are more non-native amphibians than native species, with the greatest potential threat posed by the invasive alpine newt, Ichthyosaura alpestris. These urodeles act as a vector for the chytrid fungi Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), the causative agent of the deadly amphibian infectious disease, chytridiomycosis. All populations of alpine newts sampled to date have tested positive for Bd, and there is speculation that these invasive amphibians are responsible for bringing this pathogen to the UK. In order to ascertain whether alpine newts introduced Bd to native UK amphibian populations, this project will utilise geographic profiling and genomics to describe invasion history, comparing the pattern with phylogeography of Bd in Britain. The project will also determine whether human activities play a role in newt dispersal.

Policy Impact
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