I have always been interested in how animals interact with their environment, and vice versa, how the environment can affect animals. It is the latter that becomes the focus of my PhD studies: during my time as a doctoral candidate, I will explore how air pollution affects the physiology of birds and insects at different temperatures.
Particularly, this is an interdisciplinary effort to elucidate the toxicity of soot (a type of aerosol) on lung capacity, oxidative stress, metabolism and gene expression in two very different model systems – birds and insects. Specifically, the bird species are great tits (Parus major), house sparrows (Passer domesticus) and zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata), while I focus on buff-tailed bumblebees (Bombus terrestris) as a model species for insects. I am using both field studies and experimental approaches, which means that I will have the opportunity to complement my observations of the natural environment with more controlled experiments in the lab.
Currently, urbanization and climate change are some of the most important threats to biodiversity, with air pollution such as soot being one of the main contributors to reduced health in humans and wildlife. The more we know about how air pollution affects different organisms, the better prepared we will be to tackle this environmental threat. Thus, the knowledge gained during my PhD can become very valuable for today’s society by unravelling novel biomarkers to monitor wildlife health in urban environments.
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