Evolutionary dynamics across selected African taxa and their policy implications
Unraveling the unique ways anthropogenic effects impact the genomes of populations, and applying such genomic knowledge to improve conservation policy, is paramount for effective preservation and management of biodiversity in our changing world. The central African country of Cameroon, widely recognized as a global conservation priority, is a prime landscape to study these issues. Here, I explore genetic and epigenetic variation between natural and human-altered habitats in the Cameroonian sunbird Cyanomitra olivacea. I use SNP data and methylation data to contrast patterns of genetic and epigenetic variation, finding that methylation frequency levels shift with changes in environment, and are higher overall in human-altered habitats. Then, I develop a decision-making framework to enable more effective research-to-policy translation, and apply it to a particular case study: preserving adaptive genetic variation in Cameroon. This study is one of the first to explore genetic and epigenetic variation in concert, and reveals the potential ways organisms adapt to anthropogenic change. It is also an attempt to bridge the much-maligned science-policy gap and develop policy tools to bolster conservation.