Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science




Biology (MS)

First Advisor/Chairperson

Dr. Katherine Teeter


Advances in DNA sequencing are enabling researchers to identify and genotype large sets of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in non-model organisms to answer questions concerning ecology, evolution, and conservation. Analysis of SNP allele frequencies can provide insight into the amount of genetic diversity present in a population, connectivity between populations, and historical demographic changes. The blue wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus) plays an important ecological role in many African savanna ecosystems, but little is known about the level of genetic diversity within most populations or the amount of gene flow that occurs between populations. In particular, the wildebeest in the Liuwa Plain of Zambia have been largely unstudied until recently, despite being the second largest population of migratory wildebeest. I used restriction-site associated DNA sequencing (RAD-seq) of blue wildebeest DNA to discover 2,921 novel SNPs within 1,732 RAD loci. Using these SNPs, I determined that the Liuwa Plain blue wildebeest population has moderate levels of genetic diversity compared to other large ungulates (He = 0.210), no evidence of inbreeding (FIS = 0.033), and an effective population size about one tenth of the census size. I found some evidence of genetic differentiation between wildebeest in the Liuwa Plain and Kafue National Park using STRUCTURE, and found signs of a historical population decline from the site frequency spectrum. These results will supplement field studies in developing effective conservation plans for wildebeest as they face threats of habitat destruction and overhunting.

Access Type

Open Access

Justification for Restricting Access

We would like to place an embargo on my thesis so that it is not publicly available before we have published the results of my research in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. I will be preparing a manuscript this winter and submitting it for publication in late 2019 or early 2020.

Available for download on Wednesday, November 13, 2024