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Frank Hailer

Dr Frank Hailer


Senior Lecturer

School of Biosciences

+44 29208 74125
Sir Martin Evans Building, Room C5.12 (central wing, 5th floor), Museum Avenue, Cardiff, CF10 3AX
Available for postgraduate supervision


I am an evolutionary biologist working at the interface of genomics, molecular ecology and conservation biology.

I am part of the Cardiff University Otter Project, where we study otters in the UK and beyond. We are using a diversity of scientific approaches, for example studying their exposure to environmental contaminants, antimicrobial resistance and their population structuring.

I also work on a range of projects on seabirds, part of a wonderful group of storm petrel biologists (@CUStormies on Twitter).

Much of my work has to do with organisms living water, and hence our Cardfiff University Water Research Institute provides great opportunities for interactions.

Academic service

I serve as Reviews/Associate Editor for the journal Heredity (see here for submission guidelines) and as Associate Editor for Animal Conservation. Please feel free to get in touch if you're interested in submitting to these journals.

During 2016-2020, I served on a time-limited post as Committee Member on the board of the Genetics Society UK, representing Population and Evolutionary Genetics.


  • Leader of the Field Course Group of the School of Biosciences.
  • Module leader BI3153 Evolution and Species Adaptation
  • Co-module leader for summer field courses (BI2136 Ecology and BIT055 for M.Sc. in Global Ecology and Conservation students)
  • Organiser of Organisms and Environment departmental seminar series
  • Safety coordinator for the Molecular Ecology labs

Interested in joining my research group?

I enjoy including students in my research. My research group offers various opportunities for undergraduate, Master's and PhD students, typically involving lab work and/or bioinformatics/statistical analysis. I am also happy to discuss with interested postdoc candidates about the potential to apply for funding from sources such as NERC, BBSRC, Marie-Sklodowska-Curie fellowships, etc.

If you are interested, please contact me by email.





















Book sections


Genetics and Genomics

My research interests are broad, focussing on surveying genetic variation within and among species to infer key processes in ecology and evolution, such as speciation, adaptation, introgression and population structuring. I am also interested in the causes and consequences of dispersal, mechanisms of loss or maintenance of genetic diversity, and disease ecology.

Understanding these processes often requires knowledge about population structure and phylogeographic history. Hence, my research traces the origin and fate of genetic variation within individuals to their populations and species, and continues deeper into phylogenetic time scales. In this context I find it particularly fascinating to see how independently inherited parts of the genome reflect different aspects of present and past processes.

In my research I have studied a wide range of taxa, including bears, eagles, otters, various species of tropical seabirds, wolves, coyotes and dogs, turtles, fruit flies, lynxes, elephants etc., spanning arctic to tropical habitats.

Ecology and Conservation

In my group we also use a variety of field-based or other (non-genetic) approaches to study biodiversity, for example:

  • Work on various aspects of seabird biology and our affiliation with the Cardiff University Storm Petrel team (see us on Twitter), as well as
  • A variety of mammal studies and links to the Cardiff University Otter Group (Twitter)


Undergraduate level:

  • BI1001 Skills for Science
  • BI1003 Organisms & Environment: Introduction to Conservation Biology
  • BI2131 Animal Diversity and Adaptation
  • BI2132 Genetics and its Applications
  • BI2136 Ecology and Conservation (co-module leader)
    (part B: field course 'Marine Conservation' on Borneo)
  • BI3153 Evolution and Adaptation (module leader)
  • BI3154 Biodiversity and Conservation

Master's level:

  • BIT002 Research Techniques in Biosciences
  • BIT011 Key Skills in Research Practice
  • BIT055 Placement and Field Course


Since 2015 Senior Lecturer, Cardiff University 
(Promoted in 2022 from Lecturer)
2011-2014 Postdoc, Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (BiK-F), Senckenberg Research Institute & Goethe University Frankfurt
2007-2010 Postdoc, Smithsonian National Zoo, Center for Conservation and Evolutionary Genetics, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, USA
2006-2007 Postdoc, Department of Evolutionary Biology (EBC), Uppsala University, Sweden
2006 PhD, Evolutionary Genetics, Uppsala University, Sweden
2001 MSc, Biology, Uppsala University, Sweden
1998 Basic exam in Biology ('Vordiplom'), Marburg University, Germany

After studies in biology at Marburg University (Germany), I completed my Master’s degree at Uppsala University (Sweden), where I continued to pursue PhD studies in the lab of Hans Ellegren and Carles Vilà (now at CSIC, Spain). My PhD work focused on conservation genetics of white-tailed eagles, but I also worked on other projects on dog domestication and canid population genetics. I then worked with Jennifer Leonard on hybridization of coyotes and wolves in North America. In 2007 I started a new postdoc with Rob Fleischer at the Smithsonian National Zoo. In 2010-2014 I worked at BiK-F in Axel Janke’s group, studying population genetics and adaptation of arctic vertebrates and their boreotemperate counterparts.

Professional memberships

Academic positions

2015: NESCent (National Evolutionary Synthesis Center), Duke University. Visiting researcher.

Committees and reviewing

Since 2018Reviews Editor for Heredity
Since 2012Associate Editor for Animal Conservation
2014 - 2017Junior researcher representative on Goethe University Frankfurt's Graduate Academy (GRADE)
 Peer reviewer for >40 journals [count updated in spring 2020] including PNAS, Molecular Biology and Evolution, Nature Ecology and Evolution, Molecular Ecology, Heredity, Nature Communications and Conservation Genetics


I currently supervise/co-supervise the following PhD students:

Current supervision

Annalea Beard

Annalea Beard

Research student

Sarah Du Plessis

Sarah Du Plessis

Graduate Demonstrator

Lucy Rowley

Lucy Rowley

Graduate Demonstrator

Holly Hulme

Holly Hulme

Graduate Demonstrator

Emily O'rourke

Emily O'rourke

Research student

Past projects

Previous PhD students

Dr Ali Basuony, PhD student, Cardiff University: Evolutionary genetics of two sister taxa, Rüppell's fox (Vulpes rueppelli) and red fox (V. vulpes). 2018-2023 (main supervisor)

Dr Hannah Hereward, PhD student, Cardiff University: The Conservation Biology of the Monteiro’s Storm-Petrel and Band-Rumped Storm-Petrel on Ilhéu da Praia, Azores. 2018-2022. (co-supervisor)

Dr Nia Thomas, PhD student, Cardiff University: Dynamics of demographic expansion and population structure in the otter (Lutra lutra). 2016-2021 (co-supervisor)

Dr Sophie Watson, PhD student, Cardiff University: Microbiota of Arctic species. 2017-2021. (co-supervisor)

Dr Alexandra McCubbin, PhD student, Cardiff University: Genetic and olfactory signals of mate choice in seabirds. 2016-21. (main supervisor)

Previous and current Master’s students:

Robert Frew, MBiol student, 2023-24. Non-invasive genomic monitoring of Eurasian otters (Lutra lutraI).

Reem Ghanem, MBiol student, 2023-24. Non-invasive genomic monitoring of white-tailed eagles (Haliaeetus albicilla).

Ash Noble, MSc student, Cardiff University, 2022-2023: Genomic assessment of genetic load in Asian wolves.

Jenny Smith, MRes student, Cardiff University, 2022-2023. AMR biomonitoring in otters and river water.

Madeline Davis, MBiol student, Cardiff University, 2022-2023. Identification and validation of novel Y-chromosomal microsatellite markers for the population genetic analysis of the Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra).

Sam Walker, MBiol student, Cardiff University, 2022-2023. Comparing male and female brown bear population structure among disjunct Balkan subpopulations.

Sion d’Arcy, MBiol student, Cardiff University, 2022-2023. Investigating the Genetic Structure of Otter Populations in the Southern UK.

Tyler Cuddy, MSc student, Cardiff University: Spatio-temporal Land-Use Change of Juvenile White-Tailed Eagles (Haliaeetus albicilla) on the Isle of Wight. 2022

Alicia Shroll, MSc student, Cardiff University: The Use of Spraint Samples to Study the Eurasian Otter (Lutra lutra): The First Genetic Record of a Rare and Critically Endangered Otter Species in Lebanon. 2022

Matthew Hopes, MBiol student, Cardiff University: Disparity between geographic and genetic recovery of the Eurasian Otter (Lutra lutra) in the UK. 2021-22

Hannah James, MRes student, Cardiff University: Antimicrobial Resistance in UK Freshwater Ecosystems. 2020-21.

Lucy Rowley, MBiol. student, Cardiff University: Genetics of Cyanoramphus parakeets. 2019-20

Nicholas Price, M.Sc. student, Cardiff University: Antimicrobial resistance in freshwaters. 2019-20

Matthew Pollard, MRes student, Cardiff University, 2017-18. Identification and characterisation of regions of the brown bear Y chromosome.

Liam Thomas, MRes student, Cardiff University, 2016-17. Bear Y chromosome genetics.