Behaviour and Ecology
Supervisor: Andrew MacColl
My main interest lies in how ecological variability can influence the evolution of natural populations. I graduated from the University of Edinburgh with a Bsc(Hons) Zoology in 2011, after which I took part in field work looking at the St Kilda Field Mouse, and worked as research technician for Dr Darren Obbard (University of Edinburgh). Outwith studying, Iím a keen landscape and nature photographer, and was involved in a nationwide conservation photography project called 2020Vision
My project will focus on the genetic basis of parasite resistance in the three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus), and how this variation can affect the fitness of individuals and the evolution of populations.
The island of North Uist, Scotland, is covered by a series of lochs, many of which contain isolated
populations of stickleback. Many of these populations vary in the parasite communities they contain, and previous research has shown
that variation in resistance to parasite infection has a genetic basis. The immune system provides a likely candidate to explain some
of this variation. Recent sequencing of the stickleback genome and availability of genetic techniques make the stickleback an ideal
species for studies of this nature. I hope to develop a set of tools that allow me to quantify variation in the immune response of
individuals in response to infection. By understanding the mechanisms which underlies variation in resistance, I hope to be able to
investigate whether key genes show signs of selection, and how this variation relates to fitness in the wild. In this project I hope
to combine approaches from immunology, ecology, and population genetics to build up an overall view of parasitesí role in evolution.