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Postdoctoral fellow 2018-2020

Kevin Leempoel

My main scientific interest resides in assessing and mitigating our impact on ecosystems around the world. The challenge for biodiversity is far bigger than the loss of species: it is also the isolation of wild populations, the loss of genetic diversity, the adaptation to the Anthropocene and the simplification of food webs. As such, my research projects focus on the effects of major disturbances, such as landscape fragmentation and land-use change, on all aspects of vertebrate communities, from their distribution to their use of resources. In parallel, I seek to identify the environmental and anthropogenic factors that affect them the most, in order to propose remediation strategies.

Postdoc at Stanford University: In my main project, I showed that biodiversity monitoring of mammals with environmental DNA (eDNA) is more effective and cheaper than existing approaches. In this study, I compared camera traps and soil eDNA, and found that all mammals that were consistently recorded with cameras were detected in eDNA. In addition, eDNA reported many small mammals not recorded by camera traps, but whose presence in the study area was previously documented. In a related study, I used camera trapping to show that the increased presence of an apex predator (Puma concolor) triggered a predator cascade, affecting the abundance and behavior of its main prey, subordinate predators and other prey. Moreover, this research demonstrated the value of wireless and solar-powered equipment for the long-term monitoring of biodiversity, revealing within-community interactions and dominance hierarchies.

Background and current position: I studied ecology at the University of Brussels and completed my PhD at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, where my research focused on the adaptation of various species to local environmental conditions using a combination of population genomics and high-resolution remote sensing. I am now a bioinformatician developer at the Royal Botanic Garden, Kew, where I am working on the Plant and Fungal Trees of Life (PAFTOL).