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Recognition for endangered species studies

15 December 2011

Juvenile in snow Web

As the climate changes, what factors allow some species to survive while others perish?

Professor Mike Bruford, of the School of Biosciences, has been at the forefront of the international drive to solve this increasingly urgent question.

Professor Bruford’s work has spanned many different countries and species, aiming to find the genetic factors which make some plants and animals more resilient in the face of environmental change.

Now a prestigious national research award will allow Professor Bruford to continue and expand the scope of his studies, looking at the survival prospects of a greater range of species.

The Royal Society has announced Professor Bruford as a winner of a prestigious Royal Society/Wolfson Research Merit Award. The awards are jointly funded by the Wolfson Foundation and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and determined by a committee of the Royal Society. The scheme provides universities with additional financial support for the work of respected scientists of outstanding achievement and potential.

Professor Mike BrufordProfessor Mike Bruford

To date, Professor Bruford’s work has taken him to China, where he has helped sequence the genome of the giant panda, gaining insights which may help conserve the endangered species. In Borneo, he has studied the orang-utan population, increasingly under threat as its rainforest environment disappears. He has just completed a study of the DNA of the peregrine and saker falcons, using birds from Abu Dhabi’s Falcon Hospital, which will allow more effective conservation of the wild species.

The Award will help Professor Bruford with further projects, including a study of North African sheep. He is keen to find out how they survive in an arid environment which is likely to spread if the climate changes.

Professor Bruford said: "This award is extremely welcome and I am very grateful to the Royal Society, the Wolfson Foundation and the Department. Their support will help on a number of projects I have in mind for a range of endangered species. The award also covers engagement activity and I hope to do more work to improve public understanding of the increasing threat to plants and animals around the world."

Professor Ole Petersen FRS, Director of the School of Biosciences, said: "Professor Bruford’s work has already had a significant impact on many conservation initiatives around the world. His genomic sequencing studies have improved understanding of those characteristics which allow animals to survive. The Royal Society/Wolfson Research Merit Awards are among the most prestigious in the academic world. This richly-deserved award will allow Professor Bruford’s vital work to continue with new species and new environments which are under threat."

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