Presented by Lily Donnely

PhD Candidate, James Cook University

Supervisors: Dr Matthew Lott (AM), Dr Kellie Leigh (JCU), Dr Ira Cooke (JCU), Dr Matt Field (JCU), Dr Shannon Kjeldsen (JCU), Prof Kyall Zenger (JCU)

The koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) is one of Australia’s most iconic species, widespread across eastern Australia, contributing millions in tourism revenue each year. Despite this, the koala has recently been listed as ‘Endangered’ across most of the range and in response a National Management Strategy is being developed. In this project a rapid genomic assessment tool targeting single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) is being developed for routine koala assessment, for both wild and captive koala populations. The low density, high-utility genomic tool will be capable of determining sex, diversity, divergence, provenance and parentage and includes candidate fitness-related markers within immune, thermoregulation, diet/detoxification and reproduction genes. Additionally, markers for major koala pathogens including Koala retrovirus (KoRV), Chlamydia (C. pecorum, C. pneumoniae), koala herpesvirus (PhaHV) and koala papillomavirus (KoAA) detection are also targeted.

A national database of up to 2,000 archived and opportunistic koala samples from across the distribution have been obtained for processing and genotyping on the novel genomic tool, most samples have been made available by the koala biobank at the Centre for Wildlife Genomics, the Australian Museum. The project aims to use the genomic tool and database to unravel fine and broad scale patterns within and between populations, determining national population structure, gene flow and pathogen prevalence.