Lerato Rapalai All rights reserved 2024

Personal profile

Research interests

My research interests are centered around utilising cutting-edge technologies to answer questions in evolutionary biology and conservation genetics. With a paramount focus on contributing to biodiversity conservation, I seek to understand how demographic and genetic factors contribute to the extinction versus persistence of threatened species in the face of ongoing environmental perturbations. For instance, are adaptive traits expressed in response to global change? And what are the genetic mechanisms and evolutionary forces underlying the expression of these traits? My ultimate goal is to provide valuable insights that inform effective conservation strategies and safeguard the delicate balance of our planet's diverse ecosystems.

Research

I am undertaking a PhD project utilizing a lizard inhabiting a highly fragmented habitat as a model for understanding the drivers of extinction versus adaptation to rapid environmental change. The lizard (Ctenophorus ornatus) primarily resides on isolated granite outcrop ‘islands’ in a ‘sea’ of land intensively cleared for agriculture in Western Australia, with some populations persisting in nature reserves. The dorsal coloration of the ornate dragon lizard imparts camouflage by matching the granite surface. However, land clearing has changed outcrop colour, implying that the ornate dragon lizard must adapt to maintain camouflage. Taking advantage of the high level of C. ornatus population replication, the project will investigate the phenotypic variation and genetic basis of dorsal colour among granite outcrops. Further, demographic and genetic factors contributing to the persistence of C. ornatus populations will be determined, as well as an assessment of the population genetic structure. Findings from this study will help conservationists to manage fragmented animal populations into the future.

Biography

I hold a BSc in Biological Sciences (Second class, Upper division) from the University of Botswana (2004-2008), and a Master of Biological Sciences (Conservation Biology) with Distinction from the University of Western Australia (2019-2020). I was a Curator of Entomology at the Natural History Division of the Botswana National Museum from 2008 to 2023.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 14 - Life Below Water
  • SDG 15 - Life on Land

Education/Academic qualification

Conservation Biology, Master of Biological Sciences with Distinction, Masters Thesis: Evidence of restricted gene flow and local adaptation in a translocated dung beetle, The University of Western Australia

20 Feb 201929 Mar 2021

Award Date: 29 Mar 2021

Biological Sciences, BSc in Biological Sciences, University of Botswana

Award Date: 31 May 2008

Research expertise keywords

  • conservation biology and biodiversity
  • Evolutionary biology
  • Conservation genetics
  • Population genetics and genomics

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