July 7, 2023

Tabitha Blackwell

PhD: Ecosystem Function of tropical filter-feeders under environmental change.

Location: University of Nottingham


I completed my undergraduate degree in Zoology at the University of Exeter with a study abroad year at the University of Queensland. I went on to complete a research masters at the University of Bristol, investigating the population ecology of a newly discovered population of cichlid fishes in Tanzania that were already under threat from non-native invasive species introductions.

In 2021, I joined the University of Nottingham as a Research Assistant, working on several projects, including using DNA metabarcoding to investigate the distribution and diversity of freshwater macroinvertebrates across Peninsular Malaysia. This led to the development of my current PhD project, where I am looking at the impact of environmental change on filter feeding communities in Borneo, Malaysia. I aim to understand how the rapidly changing landscape of Borneo is affecting the function of tropical freshwater ecosystems by altering their filter-feeding communities. While sessile filter-feeders are known to fulfil important ecosystem functions in temperate habitats, there is little data on their distribution and functional roles in tropical systems.

My project will include two field campaigns, combining field surveys, molecular techniques such as environmental DNA (eDNA) metabarcoding, with laboratory-based experiments and mesocosm experiments. I hope this research will expand our understanding of tropical systems, to inform estimates of functional loss in the past, predict future loss and provide baseline knowledge for developing mitigation strategies.