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Deborah J Fogell

Deborah J Fogell

Email: | OrcID: 0000-0002-4591-1911


I grew up in South Africa where I completed my undergraduate degree in Zoology and Ecology at the University of Cape Town. My Honours thesis focused on the range disjunction of an endangered species of frog in the Western Cape; where I used molecular genetics to analyse phylogeographic differences between the two populations as well as estimate the time at which they had become disjunct. I then moved to the UK and, after a few years out working in IT, decided to complete a taught MSc in Conservation Biology at DICE, University of Kent, where a project on Beak and Feather Disease Virus (BFDV) in Mauritius parakeets piqued my interest. My dissertation analysed the annual prevalence of BFDV in fledglings and assessed the repeatability of the screening protocol that is currently widely used by conservationists and researchers globally to detect the presence of the virus. After completing my MSc I decided to continue working on BFDV within the Mauritius system and completed an MRes in Biodiversity Management at DICE. This research investigated how viral incidence in fledglings related to life-history traits such as sub-population and the cleaning regime currently used by the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation to reduce the spread of infection. I also used the DNA data obtained from sequencing the viral haplotypes present within the Mauritius parakeet population to estimate the most likely global origin of BFDV on Mauritius and visualise how the virus has evolved on the island over time.

Current research

The provision of supplementary food (SF) has become a widespread tool for recovering populations of threatened species. Therefore, understanding the effects of SF is a fundamental question for population biologists. SF is often applied as a safety-net whilst the limiting factors of a threatened population are addressed, but a growing body of research also demonstrates that SF can sometimes hinder the population it is intended to help or can have wider negative effects. Using the long-term dataset provided by ongoing management and recovery of Mauritius parakeets, the primary aim of my PhD is to provide a rigorous study of the costs and benefits of providing SF; quantifying the potential benefits to productivity in a recovering population as well as the negative impacts provisioning has on the spread of infectious disease. I hope to determine the drivers of SF exploitation, individual levels of SF use, identify individuals in the population that behave as super-spreaders of infection and quantify the seasonal build-up of virions in the environment.


Genetics Society – Heredity Fieldwork Grant
African Bird Club – Conservation Award


Maurice Swingland Prize for outstanding performance on the taught MSc programme


Fogell, D. J., Tolley, K. A., & Measey, G. J. (2013). Mind the gaps: investigating the cause of the current range disjunction in the Cape Platanna, Xenopus gilli (Anura: Pipidae). PeerJ, 1, e166.


Herpetological Association of Africa - presented
African Amphibian Working Group – presented
Mauritius Conservation and Management Symposium: Species to Systems - presented

Research groups

Conservation Genetics team – Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology
Institute of Zoology, ZSL

Other activities

I am a volunteer with the Kent Wildlife Trust, helping with coppicing and beach cleans where time allows. I also assist with great crested newt surveys weekly from February to July as part of an ongoing study of a closed population at the University of Kent. I qualified as a snake handler through the Field Guiding Association of South Africa which was a valuable asset during my fieldwork periods in the Cape.