Phoenix Group

Evolutionary Ecology & Genetics

Moniqua Nelson-Tunley <>

About myself:

In 2009 I completed a BSc in Zoology and Ecology, and began an MSc in Conservation Biology the following year. In the summer between finishing my BSc and starting my MSc I was fortunate to receive the Bayerboost Scholarship. This scholarship allowed me to conduct on survey on a lizard endemic to the central North Island, the Small-scaled skink (Oligosoma microlepis). During the survey period I developed a fascination for this species, and began to wonder what shaped their current distribution, and how that distribution affects their genetic fitness. And so my Master’s project was born...

My Research:

My M.Sc project is on the conservation genetics and ecology of the Small-scaled skink (Oligosoma microlepis). Small-scaled skinks are endemic to the central North Island, ranging from Inland Patea District (east of Taihape) to just north of the Napier-Taupo Highway. The populations are restricted in size by their habitat- rock outcrops and cliff faces. Some populations are within several hundred metres from one another, while others are tens of kilometres apart. Many of these populations are also found on farmland, bringing into question how well this species can disperse in modified habitat.
I will be using microsatellite markers to investigate the level of inbreeding and dispersal within Small-scaled skink populations. This will be supported by records of fluctuating morphological asymmetry within populations and estimates of population size. I will also investigate some aspects of skink ecology, namely diet and predation.

Other interests:
I’m a keen herpetologist, and would like to become involved in future captive breeding and reintroduction programs for native herpetofauna. I am a member of the New Zealand Herpetological Society and currently have an A permit to keep and breed native reptiles.I like to explore and learn from all the habitats New Zealand has to offer, spending many days and nights from temperate ocean to alpine tundra.I enjoy outdoor activities including snorkelling, fishing, tramping, hunting and gardening.
My favourite authors are Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett and Orson Scott Card.

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