PhD Student

IMG_2083 National Oceanography Centre, University of Southampton, in association with University of Oxford.
+44 (0) 1865 281991

I use genetic and genomic techniques to study population divergence and demography in wild populations of penguins. Understanding genetic diversity and barriers to gene flow is vital for effective conservation management, whilst simultaneously increasing our understanding of how speciation occurs.

By using comparative analyses between penguin species, I aim to reveal which factors are most important in producing the population genetic structure that we see. Differences in life-histories, habitat preferences or physical barriers are some of the mechanisms which create different patterns of population structure in closely-related, sympatric species. Alternatively, shared histories over geological time-scales may have produced distinctive patterns of genetic structure, if populations were isolated in glacial refugia for example. My research has been focused on characterising the population structure of multiple species of Antarctic and sub-Antarctic penguins, in order to perform these comparative analyses.

I am also interested in how climate change throughout the Holocene has affected penguin populations, from the high Antarctic to temperate latitudes. To do this, I am reconstructing historical population sizes for multiple species and populations, using both ancient and modern DNA. I then correlate these changes in population size with paleoclimatic conditions, to show how periods of past climate change affected penguin populations.


Clucas, G., Levy, H., Rogers, A. D., Polito, M. J., Lynch, H., Emslie. S. D., and Hart, T. (2015) Population structure and phylogeography of the Gentoo Penguin (Pygoscelis papua) across the Scotia Arc. Ecology & Evolution DOI: 10.1002/ece3.1929.

Clucas, G., Younger, J.L., Kooyman, G., Wienecke, B., Rogers, A. D., Trathan, P. N., Hart, T. and Miller, K. J. (2015) Too much of a good thing: sea ice extent may have forced emperor penguins into refugia during the last glacial maximum. Global change biology, 21(6): 2215-2226.

Freer, J. J., Mable, B. K., Clucas, G., Rogers, A. D. , Polito, M. J., Dunn, M., Naveen, R., Levy, H., and Hart, T. (2015) High-levels of connectivity and limited genetic differentiation among chinstrap penguin (Pygoscelis antarctica) populations in the Scotia Arc. Polar Biology, 38(9), 1493-1502.

Brekke, P., Ewen, J., Clucas, G., and Santure, A. (2015). Determinants of male floating behavior and floater reproduction in a threatened population of the hihi (Notiomystis cincta). Evolutionary Applications, 8(8), 796-806.

Clucas, G., Dunn, M. J., Dyke, G., Emslie, S. D., Naveen, R., Polito, M. J., Pybus, O., Rogers, A. D., and Hart, T. (2014) A reversal of fortunes: climate change ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ in Antarctic Peninsula penguins. Scientific Reports, 4, Article number: 5024.

Polito, M. J., Clucas, G., Hart, T., and Trivelpiece, W. Z. (2012) A simplified method of determining the sex of Pygoscelis penguins using bill measurements. Marine Ornithology, 40: 89 – 94.

Zieritz, A., Clucas, G., Axtmann, L., and Aldridge, D. (2012). “Shell ecophenotype in the blue mussel (Mytilus edulis) determines the spatial pattern in foraging behaviour of an oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus) population.” Marine biology 159: 863 – 872.


Field Experience

I have been in the field for the past five seasons for my Master’s and PhD research. I have a lot of experience of handling penguins to take blood and feather samples, and morphological measurements. I have also excavated areas around penguin colonies for ancient bones and feathers, and helped conduct population censuses of breeding seabirds. Locations have included the Antarctic Peninsula, South Georgia, the South Sandwich Islands and the South Shetland Islands. I have worked alongside tourist expeditions on large tourist cruise ships as well as in small teams of scientists on research expeditions.


Other Research Experience

October – December 2012 and August 2011
Institute of Zoology, London
Monitoring the genetic effect of reintroductions and translocations in the New Zealand hihi ( into new reserves across New Zealand. I genotyped microsatellite loci in cohorts of chicks from two breeding seasons, and genotyped museum specimens dating back to the mid-1800s to evaluate the effect of the recent population bottleneck on genetic diversity.

February 2011 – August 2011
Institute of Zoology, London
Investigating the population structure of gentoo penguins using microsatellites and developing methods to sex Pygoscelis penguins genetically.

December 2010 – February 2011
Institute of Zoology, London, and the University of Pretoria, South Africa
Investigating the differential helping behaviour of Damaraland mole-rats at the University of Pretoria.



2012 – Present
PhD Student
Ocean and Earth Sciences, University of Southampton, in association with the University of Oxford.

2011 – 2012
MRes Ocean Sciences – (MRes Commendation awarded)
Ocean and Earth Sciences, University of Southampton.

2007 – 2010
BA (Hons) Natural Sciences
University of Cambridge.