Conservation Genetics

We use modern genetic techniques to inform conservation decisions and to clarify relationships within and between species.

Lady orchids in a field south of France

The team uses modern techniques to investigate the genetics of species in need of conservation (including endangered species and crop wild relatives) and to clarify their relationships.

We use a range of high-throughput DNA sequencing, Sanger DNA sequencing and genetic fingerprinting techniques, and we combine the genetic results with complementary data from other sources to inform conservation management decisions.

We focus on species in the UK and the UK Overseas Territories, but we also work on species from elsewhere often in collaboration with colleagues from overseas.

Our current major interests include: European orchids, crops and their wild relatives including species of yams (Dioscorea), Sorbus, Pyrus sensu lato (such as whitebeams and mountain ash), flax (Linum) and carob (Ceratonia). The results are presented as scientific papers, conservation genetics reports and other formats.

We have a strong record in training the future generation of conservation biologists.

Team members

Senior research leader
Prof. Mike F Fay

Research leader
Dr Juan Viruel

Early career research fellow
Dr Roberta Gargiulo

Honorary research associates
Dr Maarten Christenhusz
Dr Hassan Rankou

PhD students
Leif Bersweden
Jacopo Calevo
Miguel Campos
Margret Veltman


  • Hybridisation and gene flow in anthropomorphic Orchis species
  • Clonality across space and time: influence of vegetative reproduction on phylogeographic patterns in clonal-sexual plants
  • YAMNOMICS. Phylogenomics, evolution, biogeography and key traits for breeders in yams (Dioscorea, Dioscoreaceae) 
  • DYNAMIC. Deciphering symbiotic networks in carob-based Mediterranean agro-ecosystems
  • Value of genomic variation in wild flax for crop improvement 
  • BVI Resilient Habitats Project
  • Orchid targets: Genomic barcoding to identify and trace traded orchids