student profile: Mr Kyle Ewart Ewart


Thesis work

Thesis title: The phylogeny and phylogeography of two commonly traded Australian cockatoo species based on single nucleotide polymorphism markers: a toolbox for detection and prosecution of illegal trafficking

Supervisors: Nathan LO , Simon HO

Thesis abstract:

Wildlife crime continues to be one of the most prominent black market activities, and is particularly concerning for parrot species. Australian parrots and cockatoos, in particular the red-tailed black cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus banksii) and the Major Mitchell cockatoo (Lophochroa leadbeateri), are commonly found in the illegal pet trade in places like South East Asia. These two species are both variously listed under State and Federal conservation legislation, and yet little phylogenetic and phylogeographic information is available for these iconic cockatoos endemic to Australia. The aim of this research is to establish the phylogney and phylogeography of these two commonly traded cockatoo species and to develop a multifunctional suite of SNPs appropriate for wildlife forensic applications based on whole genome sequencing and single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) markers. SNPs are the most abundant genetic variants and have immense potential to provide accurate and extensive analyses, and are consequently ideal to provide an understanding of the evolutionary history of these two species across their extensive Australian distribution and resolve lingering taxonomic uncertainties that exist within the taxa. A subset of SNPs will be subsequently validated for wildlife forensic purposes, to conduct individualization, phylogeographic location, clutch ID and progeny testing. Being able to identify source populations will allow enforcement and compliance resources to be directed towards these at risk populations, thus mitigating this key threatening process as well as potentially identifying smuggling route and individuals involved to improve prosecution outcomes. 

Selected grants


  • Clarifying the phylogeny and phylogeography of two commonly traded Australian cockatoo species and the development of a wildlife forensic toolbox to identify illegal trade in these species; Lo N, Ewart K, Ho S, Johnson R; Birdlife Australia Ltd./Stuart Leslie Bird Research Award.

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