Matthew Mitchell

Matthew Mitchell

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Matthew Mitchell

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Start Year

2021 (Cohort 8)

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PhD Project
PhD Title

Understanding the consequences of population bottlenecks and long-term captivity on the phenotype and recovery potential of extinct-in-the-wild and translocated bird species.

Research Theme

Evolution and Adaptation

Primary Supervisor
Primary Institution


Secondary Supervisor
Secondary Institution



Population bottlenecks occur when a small number of individuals split off to form a ‘founder population’. They can happen due to natural events such as island colonisation, or after severe population declines that require conservation action such as translocations into captivity, population reintroductions or assisted colonisations. Due to their small size, founder populations are susceptible to losses in variation and genetic effects such as strong genetic drift and inbreeding. My project investigates the consequences of bottlenecks and long-term captivity on three extinct-in-the-wild species of high conservation concern, the sihek (Guam kingfisher), Socorro dove and Vietnam pheasant, all of which had small founding populations. It also considers the hihi, a species that has already undergone successful conservation translocations. I use morphometric measurements, reproductive success data and genotyping methodologies to determine genotypic and phenotypic change in these species during initial bottleneck events and over subsequent time spent in captivity. My project will benefit understanding of the morphological and genetic consequences of population bottlenecks and long-term captivity on endangered and extinct-in-the-wild species and aims to determine how these consequences might translate into impacts on species recovery potential. Results will inform future conservation strategies when rescuing species into captivity and planning conservation translocations.

Policy Impact
Background Reading


Conferences and Workshops
  • ZSL Science Conference 2020 (November 2020). Speed Talk: Investigating reproductive success in the sihek, an extinct-in-the-wild species.
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