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Lauren C White

Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Department of Primatology
Deutscher Platz 6
D-04103 Leipzig, Germany

Phone: +49 341 3550 243
E-mail: lauren_whiteeva.mpgde

Research Interests
Curriculum Vitae

Research Interests

My broad research interests are in conservation and evolutionary genetics of wild populations. My PhD thesis, completed in 2017 at the University of Adelaide, focused on using DNA datasets to assess changes in genetic diversity through time and resolve the evolutionary, taxonomic and demographic histories of a diverse range Australian mammal fauna to support conservation planning. I am currently a post-doctoral researcher in Dr Linda Vigilant’s Molecular Genetics lab group in the Department of Primatology.

Current Project

Preferential interactions with kin are a common feature of mammalian societies. However, the combination of pair-bonding, bilateral kin-recognition and extensive cooperation among social units linked by flexible dispersal patterns is unique to humans, and understanding how such characteristics evolved remains a key challenge in evolutionary anthropology. Comparative data from our closest living relatives, chimpanzees and bonobos (genus Pan), can provide insights into evolutionary factors acting on kinship structures.

Previous studies of kinship in chimpanzees via microsatellite genotyping show that males within a community bias positive interactions towards maternal kin. On average males are more related within than across communities, which are linked by female dispersal. However, current data lack the resolution to reconstruct wide genealogical networks, particularly across communities.

I am applying high-throughput sequencing to non-invasively collected fecal samples from across an entire chimpanzee population in Kibale National Park, Uganda to produce an exome-wide SNP dataset. This dataset will be used to determine kinship structures within the population to a resolution that has, as-yet, been unattainable.

In combination with behavioral information from habituated Kibale chimpanzee communities, these results will ultimately be contrasted with information from small-scale human populations to increase our understanding of how kinship structures evolve.

Curriculum Vitae


2017Doctorate of Philosophy
Australian Centre for Ancient DNA
University of Adelaide, South Australia
Doctoral Thesis: “Using genomics to improve the management of Australian mammals”
2013Bachelor of Science-Honours (First Class)
University of Adelaide, South Australia
Honours Thesis: “Improving the genetic monitoring of the northern hairy-nosed wombat”
2010Bachelor of Science (Biodiversity and Conservation)
Flinders University, South Australia

Conference presentations

White, L.C. and Austin, J.J., Historical phylogeography of mainland and Tasmanian thylacines using ancient mitochondrial genomes. Poster presentation delivered at the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution meeting, Gold Coast, Qld, July 2016

White, L.C., Austin, J.J., Donnellan, S., Moseby, K. and Piper, K. Monitoring genetic diversity of species reintroduced to the Arid Recovery Reserve, Oral presentation delivered at the Ecological Society of Australia annual conference, Adelaide, SA, December 2015

White, L.C., Austin, J.J., Donnellan, S., Moseby, K. and Piper, K. Monitoring genetic diversity of species reintroduced to the Arid Recovery Reserve, Oral presentation delivered at the Australia Wildlife Management Society annual conference, Perth, WA, November 2015

Grants and awards

2016Nature Foundation of South Australia, PhD Scholarship Grant
Project title: “Maintaining genetic diversity of reintroduced, threatened species at Arid Recovery Reserve”
2014F.J. Sandoz Postgraduate Award, University of Adelaide
Awarded yearly to a PhD student who is commencing studies in the field of conservation, environment or animal welfare. Awarded on the basis of academic merit and research potential.


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Kearns, A. M., Joseph, L., White, L. C., Austin, J. J., Baker, C., Driskell, A. C., Malloy, J. F. & Omland, K. E. (2016). Norfolk Island Robins are a distinct endangered species: ancient DNA unlocks surprising relationships and phenotypic discordance within the Australo-Pacific Robins. Conservation Genetics 17 (2), 321-335
Kearns, A. M., White, L. C., Austin, J. J. & Omland, K. E (2015). Distinctiveness of Pacific Robin subspecies in Vanuatu revealed from disparate patterns of sexual dichromatism, plumage colouration, morphometrics and ancient DNA. Emu-Austral Ornithology 115 (2), 89-98
White, L. C., Horsup, A., Taylor, A. C. & Austin, J. J. (2014). Improving genetic monitoring of the northern hairy-nosed wombat (Lasiorhinus krefftii). Australian Journal of Zoology 62 (3), 246-250