2014-onwards PhD student, University of East Anglia: "How do heatwaves impact male reproductive fitness in insects?"
Primary supervisor: Prof Matt Gage
Co-supervisors: Dr Aldina Franco, Dr Ramakrishnan Vasudeva
- The Gage Laboratory
- Organisms and the Environment research theme, School of Biological Sciences, UEA
- Centre for Ecology, Evolution and Conservation, UEA
Impact of heatwaves on insect reproductive fitness
Evidence shows that natural populations are responding to climate change by shifting their distributions, phenology and morphology. Range retractions are particularly concerning as they can lead to inbreeding depression and extinction. However, our understanding of the proximate mechanisms is quite limited. My project explores one potential driver; the impact of heatwave conditions, predicted to become more extreme and frequent in the future, on reproduction in insects. It is well known that male-specific sensitivity to heat stress constrains reproduction in endotherms. However, despite ectotherms having greater abundance and sensitivity to temperature fluctuation little research has been directed at their fertility. My project aims to identify what male reproductive traits are damaged by heatwaves, whether adaption or recovery is possible and if transgenerational effects are induced. My experimental approach is to assess reproductive fitness and sperm form/function using large replicated populations of the Red Flour Beetle, Tribolium castaneum. However, future plans aim to incorporate Lepidopteran models such as Speckled Wood, Green-veined White or Scotch Argus Butterflies and Indian Meal Moths.
Sexual selection and mate recognition
Male-male same sex behaviour has been demonstrated in >100 Arthropods. Its prevalence is counter-intuitive as it confers the costs of sex (energy, time, vulnerability, disease, damage) but the direct benefit of offspring production is negligible. Many potential hypotheses exist broadly separated into adaptive strategies for intra-specific competition and bonding and maladaptive errors in recognising females. Previous studies investigated explanations however, often results are inconclusive, anecdotal or indirectly compare mate choice in assays of single sexes. We explore the impact of sexual selection, through evolved regimes of differing sex ratios, on the mate recognition behaviour of males in assays presenting pairs of mating targets.
2010-14: MNatSci Natural Sciences with Integrated Masters, University of East Anglia; First Class (74%).
2016: Sales, K. Kerr, L., Gardner, J. 2016. Factors influencing epiphytic moss and lichen distribution within Killarney National Park. Bioscience Horizons 9:hzw008. DOI: 10.1093/biohorizons/hzw008
- Poster Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour Easter Meeting
- Speaker Centre of Ecology, Evolution and Conservation (CEEC) Rebellion Conference
- Speaker Royal Entomological Society Postgraduate Forum (RES) 2nd Talk Prize
- Speaker University of East Anglia Postgraduate Forum
- Speaker Cambridge-EnvEast Doctoral Alliance Symposium
- Organising committee CEEC Rebellion Conference
- Attended Assessing Vulnerability of Biodiversity to Climate Change
- Attended War and Peace the Dynamics of Evolutionary Conflict
Grants and awards
- Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour Easter Meeting Travel Grant
- Royal Entomological Society (RES) Postgraduate Forum 2nd Talk Prize
- RES Travel Grant
- Special Award for Outstanding Contribution to University Sport
- Bronze medal Norfolk Fencing Open
- ASAB Undergraduate Project Scholarship
- Chris Lelliott Memorial Prize for Field Ecology
- UEA Eliahou Dangoor Scholarship
- Four UEA Open Scholarships
- Field ecology: residential demonstrator, driver and woodlands habitat leader for 2 week field trip to Inch, County Kerry, Ireland. Marker for lepidopteran taxonomic collections
- Environmental sciences skills: demonstrator
- Behavioural ecology: demonstrator, marking presentations and scripts
- Maths and statistics for biologists: demonstrator
- Biodiversity: demonstrator and seminar leader
- Evolution, behaviour and ecology: demonstrator and seminar leader
- ENVEast E3I Student Innovation Club: Committee member
- Bringing Scientists to You: designed behavioural ecology games workshop and trained demonstrators. Run annually over 2 days with ~12 KS3 classes.
- ENVEast blog: written several blog posts
- UEA: designed wildlife trail tours from KS2 to general public, trained guides and wrote biodiversity webpages
- Move on up: designed freshwater ecology investigation workshop for KS4
- Art and Biodiversity Summer School: designed workshop linking art, moth trapping and colouration KS3
- Science, Art and Writing: volunteered for soil stand at Norfolk Show from KS1 to general public
- British Academy Fencing: level 1 foil coach; British Fencing Association, Level 1 epee coach and level 1 foil/epee referee.
- The Linnean Society of London
- The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour
- Royal Entomological Society
- British Ecological Society
General research interests
Coming from a natural sciences background, where nearly any module in the science faculty could be studied, I have a broad range of interests. However, I quickly realised when progressing though my degree that I have a real passion for how selection shapes morphology, behaviour and lifespan. Some especially interesting scenarios arise when parasites or sexual competition are involved. Although I have a soft spot for mammals groups like Primates and Chiropterans, invertebrates are fascinating because they are so diverse and ubiquitous. I regularly try and improve identification skills of Lepidoptera and Hymenoptera.