Sir Kenneth Mather Memorial Prize 2022 Sam Mitchell

I am honoured to have received the 2022 Sir Kenneth Mather Memorial Prize for my MSc research project. My gratitude goes out to the Genetics Society and the University of Birmingham for bestowing the award, and Dr Jacob Moorad at the University of Edinburgh for my nomination. In addition, I would like to give a special thanks to Dr Simon Martin and Dr Rishi DeKayne for supervising and supporting me on my MSc research project. Further thanks are necessary to those at the University of Edinburgh who have lectured to and taught me over the last year and my Quantitative Genetics coursemates, who are too many to list here.

Recent experimental evidence has suggested that balancing selection may be important in maintaining genetic diversity at a genome-wide scale following a population bottleneck. My research aimed to investigate the importance of balancing selection in such a scenario in a wild population. Making use of whole genome sequence data, I attempted to reconstruct the demographic history of an isolated island population of the African monarch butterfly. I then used simulations to test whether balancing selection was required to explain observed diversity given the suggested demographic history of the population. Despite a strong recent population bottleneck, there was no evidence that balancing selection was required to maintain genome-wide diversity, with neutral processes such as population recovery speed sufficient. My dissertation can be found in full here.

I completed an undergraduate degree in ecology at the University of Edinburgh. I aim to continue to further research where genomic techniques can be applied to better understand populations of concern for conservation outcomes.