In 2010 I graduated with a BSc (Hons) in Wildlife Conservation from the University of Plymouth, where I developed my knowledge of ecology, animal behaviour, conservation methods and evolutionary biology. During this time I undertook a student placement for seven months with the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust in their Lowland Game & Wildlife Research department. For my dissertation I surveyed populations of tropical fruit-feeding butterflies to investigate the effects of forest disturbance on community structure.
A strong interest in evolution and the use of genetics as tools for conservation led me to complete a Masters of Research in Evolutionary Biology at the University of Bath in 2013. Whilst there I gained skills in molecular phylogenetics and quantitative genetics, and carried out two research projects: the effects of inbreeding and drought on plant growth and reproduction, and the relationship between gene duplication and alternative splicing as generators of functional genetic diversity.
PhD title: Evolving with pathogens: how pathogens drive genetic diversity over space and time in an endemic island bird.
I am using Berthelot’s pipit (Anthus berthelotii), a small passerine endemic to the Canary Islands and the Madeiran archipelago, as a model system to investigate the role of pathogens for influencing genetic variation at key immunity genes. Differing pathogen communities between populations, determined by environmental factors (eg. climate, altitude, island isolation), human influences (artificial water sources for malaria vectors, poultry farms), and chance colonisation/extinction events, are predicted to create spatial and temporal variation in selection upon host immune genes.
I will be characterising spatial genetic diversity at two families of the innate immune system, the Toll-like receptors and the avian beta-defensins, across the thirteen island populations of Berthelot’s pipit. Museum specimens across the pipit’s range dating from the 1870s to the 1910s will provide an insight into changing selection regimes over time, contrasting historical patterns of variation with contemporary genetic diversity.
John and Pamela Salter Trust travel grant to attend the 49th Population Genetics Group Meeting
January 2015: 48th Population Genetics Group Meeting at the University of Sheffield, poster presentation.
2015 UEA CEEC Rebellion Conference organising committee.
Bringing Scientists to You two-day outreach event, East Norfolk Sixth Form College.