My research involves the use of evolutionary and ecological genetics (and increasingly genomics) to understand spatial patterns of genetic diversity, and what this might mean for conservation. I also utilise niche modelling to help understand how these distributions might have looked in the past, and what they might look like under various climate change scenarios.

I am a tropical crop ecologist with Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, working on the orphan crop Enset in Southern Ethiopia – funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund.

In 2017 I completed a NERC funded PhD student working with Dr. Richard Buggs and Professor Richard Nichols in the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, Queen Mary University of London. This focused on the rare Scottish montane species, Dwarf birch (Betula nana), which has a severely restricted and declining distribution in the Scottish Highlands. Among threats from changing land management, climate change and overgrazing, it is also undergoing severe introgression from increasingly abundant related species.

I also have a number of side projects. These include; Assessing the distribution of rare desert endemic plants in Oman’s central desert, in collaboration with the Oman Botanic Gardens. Similarly, I am interested in the impact of forest edges on the distribution herpetofauna (and their microhabitats) in Madagascar’s heavily fragmented Northern rainforests.

Research Interests:

Mapping genetic diversity, ecological niche modelling, habitat fragmentation, population genetics, parentage analysis, gene flow, introgression and hybridisation.

Connect on Research Gate or LinkedIn or download a copy of my CV. Publications are listed below, scroll down for details of my academic history and field experience.


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Borrell J.S., Wang, N. Nichols, R.A., Buggs, R.J.A. (2018) Genetic diversity maintained among fragmented populations of a tree undergoing range contraction. Heredity (link)

Scherz M.D., Vences M., Borrell J.S. et al. (2017) A new frog species of the subgenus Asperomantis (Anura, Mantellidae, Gephyromantis) from the Bealanana District of northern Madagascar. Zoosystematics and Evolution, 93 p451. (link)

Zohren, J., Wang, N., Kardailsky, I., Borrell, J.S., Joecker, A., Nichols, R.A. & Buggs, R.J.A. (2016) Unidirectional diploid‐tetraploid introgression among British birch trees with shifting ranges shown by RAD markers. Molecular Ecology 25: 2413‐2426. (link)

Borrell J.S. (2016) 17th Student Conference on Conservation Science. Oryx. 50(3). (link)

Ball L.D. & Borrell J.S. (2016) An Inventory of Herpetofauna in Wadi Sayq. Checklist. 8:12. (link).

Ball L.D., Alfazari W. & Borrell J.S. (2015) Birds of Wadi Sayq, Dhofar, Oman. Sandgrouse (link).

Borrell, J.S. (2014) Lessons from a year of citizen science. Human Computation,1:2:111-118 (link).

Wang N., Borrell J.S. and Richard J. A. Buggs. (2014) Is the Atkinson discriminant function a reliable method for distinguishing between Betula pendula and B. pubescens? New Journal of Botany. (link)

Wang, N., Borrell, J. S., Bodles, W. J., Kuttapitiya, A., Nichols, R. A., & Buggs, R. J. (2014). Molecular footprints of the Holocene retreat of dwarf birch in Britain. Molecular ecology. (link)

Borrell, J. S. (2012). Rapid assessment protocol for pollen settling velocity: implications for habitat fragmentation. Bioscience Horizons: The National Undergraduate Research Journal, 5. (link)

Prizes and Awards:

Ecological Genetics Oral Presentation Prize 2015: For the best oral presentation by a student at the 59th ecological genetics special interest group conference, help in Liverpool.

Anne Keymer Prize 2013: For the best oral presentation by a postgraduate student at the joint British Ecological Society and INTECOL conference, London.

Poster Prize (2nd) 2013: Ecological Genetics Group, Belfast.

William H. Fraser Prize 2011: For the most outstanding dissertation in environmental biology and whole organisms at the University of Exeter.

Dean’s Commendation 2011: For Outstanding performance, University of Exeter.


2017               Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust: Fieldwork grant (£750)

2017               Birdlife/RSPB: Fieldwork grant ($750)              

2015               Zoological Society of London: Erasmus Darwin Barlow grant (£3000)

2015               Royal Geographical Society: Small fieldwork grant (£3000)

2015               Scientific Exploration Society: Cadogan Tate Explorer Award (£2000)

2015               QM Public Engagement: To further develop Discover Conservation (£675)

2014               UnLtd Grant: To launch an online social enterprise (£500)

2013               EU-INTERACT Transnational Access Grant (£3000)


Academic History:

2017 – Present: Research Fellow, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. (GCRF)

2012 – 2017: PhD Biological Sciences (NERC), Queen Mary, University of London.

2010: Gatsby Plant Sciences Summer Studentship, John Innes Centre, Norwich.

2008 – 2011: 1st Class Degree (Hons), Biological Sciences, University of Exeter.

Field Experience:

2017-18: Tropical ecologist, Ethiopia.

2017: Scientist, Central Desert Botanic Expedition, Oman

2015/16: Expedition Leader, Northern Madagascar

2014: University field course, Brunei Darussalam

2013 – 2015: PhD field research, Scottish Highlands, Ireland and Finnish Lapland.

2012: Chief Scientist, Empty Quarter Expedition, Oman.

2011: Research Assistant, Action for the Wild, South Africa.

2011: Science Co-ordinator, Cocama-Amazon Expedition, Peru.

2007: Expedition member, Madagascar.

Courses and Training:

Multivariate Ecological Statistics Course, Oxford, 2015.

Expedition Risk Management Training, Earthwatch, Oxford, 2015.

Species Distribution Modelling Course, UCL, 2014.

Plant taxonomy, identification and field survey skills course, RBG Kew, 2014.


> QM Evolution Research Group

> Buggs Lab Website

> Trees for Life (partners)

> Highland Birchwoods (partners)

> Center for Ecology and Evolution

> Mountain Woodland Project

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