Samuel Speak

Samuel Speak


Having achieved a First-Class degree in Biological Sciences at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in 2019, with a strong focus on conservation, ecology and genetics, I developed my bioinformatics skill set during a Master’s of Science by Research (MScR) course within the school of Environmental Science at UEA, investigating diatom genomes.

During my undergraduate studies I worked on a range of research opportunities including:
– Volunteering to help investigate the effects of microclimates on the Brown Argus butterfly on the North Norfolk coast (2017).
– Developing my camera trapping and ecological surveying techniques in Eswatini (2018) whilst observing the conservation and management strategies being employed across multiple nature reserves.
– Investigating relative population sizes of mammals including otters, deer and foxes with camera traps using the Random Encounter Model to evaluate population densities at two reserves on the Norfolk Broads during my final year research project (2018/2019). An article written for the Ted Ellis reserve, summarising my dissertation research is available at

My masters work focused on investigating the effects of temperature stress on the marine diatoms Thalassiosira pseudonana, and the loss of photosynthesis in the marine diatom Nitzschia putrida NIES-4235. Additionally, I worked on a paper exploring the effects of inbreeding on the Pink Pigeon population. These projects have shown me the importance of interweaving conservation management with evolutionary genetics/genomics research to help current species threatened by the 6th mass extinction.

Samuel Speak

Ecology and Biodiversity

University of East Anglia, School of Environmental Sciences

PhD title: Conservation genomics of endangered bird species in zoos


The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) produces the Red List that classifies species’ extinction risks However, currently no genetic data is used in the assessment of each species classification. This can lead to an underestimation in the long-term effects of significant population bottlenecks on species recovery. The IUCN is committed to the One-Plan approach in conservation (i.e. managing wild and captive populations as a single gene pool), with the aim to ensure the long-term protection of endangered species globally.

Research Methodology

In this PhD I will collaborate with Chester Zoo and other UK and EU zoos to gain access to studbook data of endangered bird species. Additionally, the genomes of some of these birds will be sequenced to assess the current and past rates of inbreeding. This data will be used to produce a Vortex model to assess the long-term extinction risk of these bird species and advise zoos on the optimal management strategies for the conservation of these bird species. Additionally, I will use bioinformatic techniques to identify deleterious mutations within Ultra Conserved Elements of the bird genomes to calculate the genetic load of the species. Thereby allowing for a better assessment of endangered species genetic “health” and increasing their ability to recover from current and future population bottlenecks.


  • Studentship funded by NERC

Further Information

I have been volunteering at the Ted Ellis Nature Reserve since initially carrying out research at the site in 2018, as part of my undergraduate degree.

During my masters I partook in UEA’s i-Teams program as a member of the Digital Ted team working on a project for the Broads Authority’s water mills and marshes program, digitising the archive of the local naturalist, writer, and broadcaster Dr Ted Ellis.