Dr Deborah Dawson


Contact Details
Telephone: +44 (0)114 222 0106 Email: D.A.Dawson@Sheffield.ac.uk



Manager of the NERC Biomolecular Analysis Facility (Sheffield),

Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield

1996–98 Research Associate, Department of Biology (Zoology), University of Leicester
1996 & 97 Research Associate, Institute of Evolution, University of Haifa, Israel
1994–96 Research Assistant, Department of Zoology, University of Leicester
1991–94 Researcher, Department of Genetics, University of Leicester


Research Interests

•Conservation genetics
•Mating systems & reproductive behaviour
•Avian sex chromosomes & genomic architecture
•Development of markers and techniques to enhance studies of molecular ecology
•Studies of historical & contemporary population structure & genetic bottlenecks
•Identification of species, hybrids, molecular systematics & phylogenetics


The NERC Biomolecular Analysis Facility at Sheffield (NBAF-S)

I have been the Manager of the NERC Biomolecular Analysis Facility at Sheffield since it was established in 1998.
The Facility supports genetic studies of the natural world, such as behavioural ecology and population structure. Any UK researcher can apply for access to our facilities, consumables, training and expertise, providing the project to be supported is within NERCs environmental remit (projects do not need to be NERC funded). We have supported over 200 projects and provided training for over 100 PhD students. Over 200 publications have resulted from Facility supported work, including many in Nature and Science.

In addition to managing the Facility, our staff and supervising Facility-supported projects, I lead several research projects.



I supervise and support Facility-funded projects and provide one-to-one training as required. I am keen  to enable, encourage and facilitate knowledge transfer. I manage a quaterly training course introducing Molecular Ecology Techniques in which I present lectures on an genotyping techniques, genetic sex-typing, data validation and an introduction to parentage and population analyses. See the "See also" link.


Current projects supported at NBAF-Sheffield

During 2017, twenty projects were approved and are being supported.

We have supported over 200 projects since 1998.


Current Outreach Projects

A DNA study of the Sheffield Peregrines (2015-)
(in collaboration with the Sheffield Bird Study Group).

A DNA-based survey of otters in Sheffield (2016-)
(in collaboration with the Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust).

Otter distribution in the Peak District (2016-)
(in collaboration with the Moors for the Future Partnership).

The diet of urban and rural otters (2016-)

Origins of badgers on the Isle of Arran (2017)
(in collaboration with Scottish Badgers).


Past and Present Group Members

Lucy Knowles (2017-2018) MRes Student (University of Sheffield)
A comparison of the diet of urban and rural otters.

Amy Withers (2017) MSc Student (Visiting from the University of Leeds)
Next-generation sequencing to study the distribution and diet of Eurasian otters (Lutra lutra) on the river Don in Sheffield.
(In collaboration with the Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust)
(Joint supervisor with Hannah Dugdale, University of Leeds)

Tom Bellis (2017) MSc Student (Visiting from the University of Leeds)
Genetic origins of the badger population on the Isle of Arran, Scotland.
(In collaboration with Scottish Badgers)
(Joint supervisor with Hannah Dugdale, University of Leeds).

Brian Hanotte (2017) Undergraduate Summer Volunteer (Bangor University, Wales)
A DNA study of the diet of Pine Marten (Martes martes) on the Isle of Skye, Scotland.

Dr Sabuj Bhattacharyya (2016-2017) British Commonwealth Fellow 
(Visiting Sheffield from the Indian Institute of Science) 
Pika as an indicator species to monitor climatic oscillation in mountain ecosystem.

Gracie Adams (2015) Undergraduate Summer Volunteer (University of Sheffield)
Assessment of microsatellite markers for parentage and population studies of the Asian elephant Elephas maximus.
Teresa Santos (2013-2014) Erasmus Research Internee
(Visiting Sheffield from the University of Aveiro, Portugal)
Assessing genetic markers for studying and comparing populations and mating systems.

Filipa Martins (2011) Leonardo Scholarship
(Visiting Sheffield from the University of Lisbon, Portugal)
Genetic studies of the Australian Brush-turkey Alectura lathami (Megapodiidae, AVES).

Ged Poland (2010) MSc Student (University of Sheffield)
Assigning sex to avian osteological remains: a review of current methods and an investigation into a novel, independent, biomolecular method.
(Joint Supervisor with Umberto Albarella, Department of Archaeology)

Anna Bone (2010) Undergraduate Summer Volunteer (University of Oxford)
Assessment of microsatellite markers for parentage and population studies of birds of prey.

Alex Ball (2009) MSc Student (University of Sheffield)
Recombination levels and gene order in the zebra finch homologues of the chicken chromosomes Gga1, Gga2 and Gga9.
(Joint Supervisor with Terry Burke, Department of Animal and Plant Sciences)


Selected Publications

I have published over 100 papers in peer reviewed journals.

For full publications list please see the "See also" section.

Dawson DA, Brekke P, dos Remedios N, Horsburgh GJ (2015) A marker suitable for sex-typing birds from degraded samples. Conservation Genetics Resources, 7, 337–343. [Open Access].

Dawson DA, Ball AD, Spurgin LG, et al. (2013) High-utility conserved avian microsatellite markers enable parentage and population studies across a wide range of species. BMC Genomics, 14, 176. [Open Access]

Dawson DA, Horsburgh GJ, Krupa AP, et al. (2012) Microsatellite resources for Passeridae species: a predicted microsatellite map of the house sparrow Passer domesticus. Molecular Ecology Resources, 12, 501–523.

Dawson DA, Horsburgh GJ, Küpper C, et al. (2010) New methods to identify conserved microsatellite loci and develop primer sets of high utility – as demonstrated for birds. Molecular Ecology Resources, 10, 475–494.

Dawson DA, Åkesson M, Burke T, Pemberton JM, Slate J, Hansson B (2007) Gene order and recombination in homologous regions of the chicken and a passerine bird. Molecular Biology and Evolution, 24, 1537–1552.

Dawson DA, Burke T, Hansson B, Pandhal J, Hale MC, Hinten GN, Slate J (2006) A predicted microsatellite map of the passerine genome based on chicken- passerine sequence similarity. Molecular Ecology, 15, 1299–1320.

Dawson DA, Darby S, Hunter FM, Krupa AP, Jones IL, Burke T (2001) A critique of CHD-based molecular sexing protocols illustrated by a Z-chromosome polymorphism detected in auklets. Molecular Ecology Notes, 1, 201–204.