Research in the Molecular Ecology Group is based on three general areas:

Molecular Ecology, Phylogeography & Conservation Genetics

A number of projects involve the phylogeography and population genetics of cetacean species, including global studies on killer whales, minke whales, bottlenose dolphins, common dolphins, sperm whales, striped dolphins and Risso’s dolphins.  Some further details about specific projects are given on the Research Group page.  Other projects are based on a diversity of species including elephant seals, harbor porpoise, basking sharks and reindeer.  Objectives include an understanding of the evolutionary mechanisms generating population structure, and the support of conservation and management programs (see Conservation Genetics journal web site). Ancient DNA projects include phylogeography of 1,500-year-old British (Anglo Saxon) populations in the context of modern European populations, and Holocene populations of elephant seals in the Antarctic.


Molecular Evolution and Phylogenetics

Behavioural Ecology

Variance in male reproductive success and male reproductive strategy have been investigated in northern and southern elephant seals using molecular markers to identify paternity.  Estimates of kinship have also been derived to assess possible kin-associations in these species, and to compare intra- and inter-group patterns of kinship in social odontocete species (especially sperm whales, Risso’s dolphins and striped dolphins).  Foraging ecology has also been investigated using stable isotope analyses in elephant seals and grey seals.  Work on the behavioural ecology of killer whales extends to their acoustic behaviour and the impact of environmental noise on killer whale populations.  Relevant citations for many of the projects mentioned on this page are given on the Recent Publications page.


Collaborative Projects

Marine Mammal Project for Biodiversity Aysen


Contact Details

A. Rus Hoelzel
School of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Durham University
South Road, Durham

All photos copyright AR Hoelzel

Recent Publications (including some pdf files)

Research Group