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Research

To date, most studies try to determine the effects of a single, or perhaps two stressors on a particular trait of interest. This often leads to an over simplified view of the organism or stress. I am interested in understanding how multiple threats in a landscape of fear affect the integrated phenotype of an organism. I am also interested in how this integrated phenotype is tightly coupled to spatial and temporal distribution patterns in the wild.

I want to address these intriguing questions by assessing how a suite of threats (such as predation, food availability, abiotic factors like ultraviolet radiation) affects a suite of traits in organisms, including behaviour, morphology and physiology. Importantly I will look at how individual variation in response to such threats shapes the population, potentially even the community!

Daphnia sp. are the perfect organisms to study such themes. Using fluorescent nanoparticles and 3D tracking software I will be able to quantify the behavioural aspects of this mm-sized organism on an individual scale. Combined with physiological and morphological studies I will be able to quantify the ‘fingerprints of fear’ i.e. the integrated phenotype, relating the individual differences to natural distributions. Utilising Daphnia’s clonal nature, I will also assess if fear has transgenerational effects. And finally, with resurrection ecology (hatching resting eggs from decades ago) I can assess if the threat responses of the animals adapt locally to environmental change.

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