Given that gene expression and biochemical processes are influenced by environmental factors, an organism’s development is not solely determined by DNA but through a process involving interactions between genotype and environment. We are using a comparative and evolutionary genetics/genomics approach to study the evolution of major traits that allow occupation of new habitats or diversification within given habitats in several groups of amphibians and fish. We also consider changes in gene expression and the phenotypic outcomes of due to climatic change.
We are developing Environmental DNA (eDNA) approaches to generate knowledge about the amphibians and fish to facilitate their conservation. Environmental DNA can be used to rapidly explore, understand and conserve threatened organisms. The most straightforward eDNA method is to use single genetic markers that are species-specific. However, advances in Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) technologies also show great possibilities. We will also use the genetic data accumulated through genetic analysis for population genetics studies to understand restricted species and patterns of geneflow.
We study amphibian and fish diseases. South China harbors both species of the chytrid fungal species – Batrochochytridium dendrobatidis (Bd) and Batrochochytridium salamandrivorans (Bsal) – the etiological agents of chytridiomycosis responsible for the most widespread wildlife disease ever known to humankind. Though surveying and lineage characterization work has been carried out for chytridiomycosis, deeper knowledge on the dynamics and prevalence of chytrid in the environment (i.e. zoospores) and the correlates of the taxa, is poorly understood. The fact that more new taxa (even at higher taxonomic levels, such as fishes) are being newly discovered with this disease and the unprecedented instances of sudden outbreaks, justifies the generation of this new knowledge, which is fundamental to understanding the dispersal and amelioration of the disease.