The MacColl Lab

University of Nottingham


Research outline: We are a whole organism evolutionary ecology lab. We are fascinated by the diversity of life. We are particularly interested in the ecological causes of, and genetic responses to, natural selection, especially in the context of the processes that drive adaptive radiation in contemporary wild populations. But some of us also do conservation biology. Mainly we study the three-spined stickleback, Gasterosteus aculeatus. Developments in genetic technology mean that the study of evolution is crossing the threshold of an extraordinary new period of discovery. Genome sequencing is rapidly revealing the proximate, genetic basis for trait variation and evolution.

There is also a massive opportunity to further our comprehension of the ultimate causes of evolution, which can only come from a better understanding of the ecological context in which evolution takes place. Advance in this area depends on the adoption of model systems that span the range of cutting-edge techniques from sequencing to manipulative ecological experiments. The three-spined stickleback provides such a system. We also do, or have done research on mammals, birds and aquatic insects. We combine observational ecology, analysis of long-term datasets, and field, lab and mesocosm experiments with quantitative and molecular genetics.

Lab news:

Welcome to Iain Hill, just starting in the lab as a NERC Envision student. His project will look at the effect of environmental chemistry on stickleback elemental composition.

Congratulations to Laura Dean, who passed her PhD viva with no corrections!.
She now joins the lab as a PDRA on a new NERC project, "Genomic responses to rapid environmental change: selection, plasticity and adaptation".

Recent lab papers include:
A paper in Science on the effects of temperature and precipitation on natural selection. *Now highly cited*.
Jim Whiting's paper in Molecular Ecology, which looks at correlations between life history and immune system activity in three-spined stickleback.
Abdul Rahman Singkam's paper in Journal of Fish Biology, on the correct way to determine stickleback age using otolith ear bones.
Chris Heward has published a large analysis of the habitat correlates of native woodcock, a declining bird species in the UK, in J. Ornithology.
Muayad Mahmud's study of virulence variation in Gyrodactylus parasites, published in Functional Ecology.
A meta-analysis of environmental determinants of natural selection, in American Naturalist.


School of Life Sciences, University of Nottingham, University Park, Nottingham, NG7 2RD, U.K.

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Funders: NERC, BBSRC, NESCent, FSBI, The Leverhulme Trust

External links:
School of Life Sciences
Behaviour and Ecology Group, Nottingham,