Dr. Alana Alexander

Alana Alexander received her PhD from Oregon State University (USA). Her research uses population genomic, phylogenomic, ecological, and biogeographic data, as well as genomic and computational approaches, to test hypotheses about the processes leading to observed patterns of genetic diversity within and among populations.

Her work often focuses on cetaceans (whales and dolphins) as many were hunted (or subject to bycatch) at an industrial scale for meat and oil well into the late 20th century, dramatically reducing population sizes in many species, often to the brink of extinction. This makes them a particularly compelling group for inferring evolutionary and ecological processes leading to observed patterns of genetic differentiation and diversity.

Alana's previous position in the Gemmell lab was as a bioinformatics postdoc, offering coding and analysis on a variety of projects. Currently, she is on a two-year Rutherford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship from the Royal Society Te Apārangi of New Zealand investigating if patterns of genetic diversity across the holobiome, also known as the hologenome, can be used in conservation biology. Hologenomics takes a holistic approach to genome sequencing where the DNA of the host animal as well as its co-existing microbes are sequenced.

The test case Alana is using are the Māui and Hector's dolphins, where she hopes to use hologenomics to determine when and how much interbreeding occurred between these two subspecies, how their population sizes changed through time in response to anthropogenic impacts, levels of inbreeding, disease susceptibility, adaptation to their local environments, and how long ago the Māui and Hector's dolphins were last one big panmictic population.


Contact Details:

Telephone: +64 (03) 479 7376
Fax: +64 (03) 479 7254

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Morin, P.A., Alexander, A., Blaxter, M., Caballero, S., Fedrigo, O., Fontaine, M.C., Foote, A.D., Kuraku, S., Maloney, B., McCarthy, M.L. and McGowen, M.R., 2020. Building genomic infrastructure: Sequencing platinum‐standard reference‐quality genomes of all cetacean speciesMarine Mammal Science. https://doi.org/10.1111/mms.12721


Alexander, A., and Dutoit, L. 2020. Roe deer on ice: Selection despite limited effective population size through the PleistoceneMolecular Ecology. 29(15): 2765-2767. https://doi.org/10.1111/mec.15511


Cole, T.L., Dutoit, L.*, Dussex, N.*, Hart, T.*, Alexander, A.*, Younger, J.L., Clucas, G.V., Frugone, M.J., Cherel, Y., Cuthbert, R. and Ellenberg, U., 2019. Receding ice drove parallel expansions in Southern Ocean penguins.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences116(52): 26690-26696. * Joint 2nd authors.


Gustafson, G.T., Baca, S.M., Alexander, A.M. and Short, A.E., 2019. Phylogenomic analysis of the beetle suborder Adephaga with comparison of tailored and generalized ultraconserved element probe performanceSystematic Entomologyhttps://doi.org/10.1111/syen.12413


Dobelmann, J., Alexander, A., Baty, J.W., Gemmell, N.J., Gruber, M.A., Quinn, O., Wenseleers, T. and Lester, P.L.,2019. The association between mitochondrial genetic variation and reduced colony fitness in an invasive wasp. Molecular Ecology. 28(14): 3324-3338. doi.org/10.1111/mec.15159


Gustafson, G.T., Alexander, A., Sproul, J.S., Pflug, J.M., Maddison, D. R. and Short, A. E., 2019. Ultraconserved element (UCE) probe set design: Base genome and initial design parameters critical for optimization. Ecology and Evolution. 9(12): 6933-6948. doi.org/10.1002/ece3.5260



Al-Jiab, R.A., Gillum, J., Alexander, A., Tompkins, D.M., Philips, C.B., Dearden, P.K. and Gemmell, N.J., 2019. The complete mitogenome sequence of the agricultural pest, clover root weevil: the key to its own demise?. Mitochondrial DNA Part B, 4(1), pp.878-879. https://doi.org/10.1080/23802359.2018.1561218


Heimeier, D., Alexander, A., Hamner, R.M., Pichler, F. and Baker, C.S., 2018. The influence of selection on MHC DQA and DQB haplotypes in the endemic New Zealand Hector’s and Māui dolphins. Journal of Heredity, 109 (7), 744-756. https://doi.org/10.1093/jhered/esy050


Morin, P.A., Foote, A.D., Baker, C.S., Hancock‐Hanser, B.L., Kaschner, K., Mate, B.R., Mesnick, S.L., Pease, V.L., Rosel, P.E. and Alexander, A., 2018. Demography or selection on linked cultural traits or genes? Investigating the driver of low mtDNA diversity in the sperm whale using complementary mitochondrial and nuclear genome analyses. Molecular ecology, 27(11), pp.2604-2619. DOI:10.1111/mec.14698

Warren, W. C., Kuderna, L., Alexander, A., Catchen, J., Pérez-Silva, J. G., López-Otín, C., Quesada, V., Minx P., Tomlinson, C., Montague, M., Farias, F. H. G., Walter, R., Marques-Bonet, T., Glenn, T., Kieran T. J., Wise, S. S., Wise Jr., J. P., Waterhouse, R. M. and Wise Sr., J. P. Accepted. The novel evolution of the sperm whale genome. Genome Biology and Evolution, 9 (12), 3260-3264. https://doi.org/10.1093/gbe/evx187


Chan, K. O., Alexander, A., Grismer, L., Su, Y.-C., Grismer, J., Quah, E. and Brown, R. 2017. Species delimitation with gene flow: a methodological comparison and population genomics approach to elucidate cryptic species boundaries in Malaysian Torrent Frogs. Molecular Ecology. 26 (20), 5435-5450. https://doi.org/10.1111/mec.14296


Baca, S. M., Alexander, A., Gustafson, G. T. and Short, A. E. Z. 2017. Ultraconserved Elements show utility in phylogenetic inference of Adephaga (Coleoptera) and suggest paraphyly of 'Hydradephaga'. Systematic Entomology. 42(4): 786-795. https://doi.org/10.1111/syen.12244


Campbell, L. P. and Alexander, A. 2017. Landscape genetics of Aedes mcintoshi (Diptera: Culicidae), an important vector of Rift Valley fever virus in Northeastern Kenya. Journal of Medical Entomology. 54(5): 1258-1265. doi: 10.1093/jme/tjx072


Alexander, A., Su, Y.-C., Oliveros C. H., Olson, K. V., Travers, S. L. and Brown, R. M. 2017. Genomic data reveals potential for hybridization, introgression, and incomplete lineage sorting to confound phylogenetic relationships in an adaptive radiation of narrow-mouth frogs. Evolution. 71(2): 475-488. https://doi.org/10.1111/evo.13133


Alexander, A., Steel, D., Hoekzema, K., Mesnick, S., Engelhaupt, D., Kerr, I., Payne, R. and Baker, C. S.  2016. What influences the worldwide genetic structure of sperm whales Physeter macrocephalus? Molecular Ecology. 25(12): 2754-2772. DOI:10.1111/mec.13638


King, C., Alexander, A., Chubb, T., Cursons, R., MacKay, J., McCormick, H., Murphy, E., Veale, A. and  Zhang, H. 2016. What can the geographic distribution of mtDNA haplotypes tell us about the invasion  of New Zealand by house mice Mus musculus? Biological Invasions. 18(6): 1551-1565. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10530-016-1100-y


Grismer J. L., Schulte J. A., Alexander, A., Wagner P., Travers S. L., Buehler M. D., Welton L. J., Brown R. M. 2016. The Eurasian invasion: phylogenomic data reveal multiple Southeast Asian origins for Indian Dragon lizards. BMC Evolutionary Biology. 16(1):1. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12862-016-0611-6


Carroll, E. L.; Rayment, W.; Alexander, A.; Baker, C. S.; Patenaude, N.; Steel, D.; Constantine, R.; Cole, R.; Boren, L. and Childerhouse, S. 2014. Re-establishment of former wintering grounds by New Zealand southern right whales. Marine Mammal Science. 30(1): 206-220. https://doi.org/10.1111/mms.12031


MacKay, J. W. B.; Alexander, A.; Hauber, M. E.; Murphy, E. C.; and Clout, M. N. 2013. Does genetic variation among invasive house mice in New Zealand affect eradication success? New Zealand Journal of  Ecology. 37(1): 18-25.


Alexander, A.; Steel, D.; Slikas, B.; Hoekzema, K.; Carraher, C.; Parks, M.; Cronn, R.; and Baker, C. S. 2013. Low diversity in the mitogenome of sperm whales revealed by next-generation sequencing. Genome  Biology and Evolution. 5(1): 113-129. doi: 10.1093/gbe/evs126


Carroll, E. L.; Childerhouse, S. J.; Christie, M.; Lavery, S.; Patenaude, N.; Alexander, A.; Constantine, R.; Steel, D.; Boren, L.; and Baker, C. S. 2012. Paternity assignment and demographic closure in the New Zealand southern right whale. Molecular Ecology. 21(16): 3690-3973. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-294X.2012.05676.x


Carroll, E.; Patenaude, N.; Alexander, A.; Steel, D.; Harcourt, R.; Childerhouse, S.; Smith, S.; Bannister, J.;  Constantine, R.; and Baker, C. S. 2011. Population structure and individual movement of southern  right whales around New Zealand and Australia. Marine Ecology Progress Series. 432: 257-268. doi: 10.3354/meps09145