PhD: The evolution of metabolic adaptation to environmental change.
Location: University of Nottingham
Ecological transitions between environments usually entail dietary shifts. Research regarding adaptive evolutionary responses have, until recently, rarely discussed genetically encoded metabolic changes required to transgress nutritional gradients during environmental change. Compared to saltwater equivalents, freshwater environments possess low dietary availabilities of omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, key compounds for growth, survival and reproduction. Copy number variation in the fatty acid desaturase 2 gene, encoding an enzyme involved in omega-3 fatty acid biosynthesis, has been found between closely related species varying in freshwater colonisation capabilities as well as between populations of the same species exploiting different resources. My project will primarily aim to identify coding sequence, regulatory and structural variation in multiple genes associated with omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid biosynthesis in three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) populations inhabiting environmentally distinct lochs on North Uist.
I attended the University of Nottingham for my undergraduate degree, graduating with a BSc in Zoology. My PhD will add to work I performed during my recently completed MRes degree undertaken at the University of Nottingham. During my MRes, I found variation in the concentrations of key omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids between North Uist three-spined stickleback populations as well as between plankton of two freshwater lochs located on the island.