Alexandra Jansen Van Rensburg

Table of contents

Research Interests

My interests are broadly in evolution and ecology, and specifically in the genetic processes governing adaptation to local environments. Understanding these processes will allow us to predict how species may react to environmental change. This has important implications for management strategies in agriculture (e.g. maintenance of animal and crop production, pest management), and wildlife conservation (e.g. designating conservation units, predicting viability to environmental change).

Widely distributed species are exposed to a number of different environments. We expect to find gradual changes in locally adapted populations of a species distributed across an environmental cline. During my PhD I will investigate the adaptive landscape of a common European frog, Rana temporaria, across its altitudinal distribution in the Swiss alps. I will use a landscape genomic approach, which attempts to correlate genomic variation with environmental variables.

Latitude and Altitude are often used as proxies in the investigation of climate change on species ranges. However, the large geographic distances across latitudinal gradients make it difficult to disentangle neutral genetic structure from patterns of natural selection. As a second part of my project I will compare the adaptive landscape of Rana temporaria across altitude in Switzerland and a latitudinal gradient in Sweden. Given the differing levels of gene flow expected over these gradients, the demographic histories, and the extent and mechanism of local adaptation may be completely different.  


Education and Professional Positions

2013 - 2018 Ph.D. at the Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies, University of Zurich, Switzerland
2011 - 2012 Research consultant for the DNA Fingerprinting Group at the Forest Molecular Genetics Programme (Providing a DNA fingerprinting and analysis service for commercial tree breeders), University of Pretoria, South Africa
2008 - 2011 M.Sc. in Genetics (distinction), University of Pretoria, South Africa
2008 - 2010 Technical assistant at GenPath, South Africa (Diagnostic human karyotyping service)
2007 B.Sc. with Honours in Genetics, University of Pretoria, South Africa
2004 - 2006 B.Sc. in Human Genetics, University of Pretoria, South Africa