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Jarrod Sopniewski

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Thesis: Developing methods to safeguard Australia's faunal diversity

The Earth is facing an extinction crisis, with swathes of taxa being continually lost from the tree of life. Amphibians are not immune to this catastrophe; rather, with 41% of species threatened globally, they are one of the most severely affected taxa. Of the ~8,000 described amphibian species, Australia is home to over 240 predominately endemic species, all in the order Anura (frogs), with at least 45 of these threatened with extinction. Given the key roles that frogs play in ecosystems, it is important to assess how threats to their persistence may impact populations into the future, such that actions to protect them may be proactively implemented. Here, I propose to conduct an exploration of frog diversity in Australia, describing it using various methods, with the aim of proposing actionable conservation outcomes. In my first chapter, I will develop a novel landscape genetics-based method to effectively plan for multi-species management following extreme fire events, here considering not only frogs, though also mammals, birds, and reptiles. My second chapter will compare different spatial genetic techniques to assess how well the reserve system of Northern Australia protects the diversity of frogs. Finally, my third chapter will examine the means through which Australia’s most widespread frog, Litoria rubella, has adapted to persist throughout its distribution, with the results suggesting ways in which this frog, and others, may be impacted by climate change. Collectively, my PhD will introduce novel methods to the field of conservation biology, supporting conservation efforts to safeguard Australia’s frog diversity.

Why my research is important

In an global climate where pressures upon natural systems are increasing, and many ecosystems are on the brink of collapse, conservation is becoming an ever more important and time sensitive science. Developing novel methods, and improving upon existing methods, is essential to ensure that the actions we take to preserve the world's remaining natural life have the greatest possible effect. In particular, making use of new and improving technologies, such as rapid and affordable genetic data, has the potential to better use resources to safeguard remaining biodiversity.


Litoria rubella, desert tree frog in Australia. Alexandre Roux (January 20, 2020). CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.


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