School of Biological and Marine Sciences Seminar Series

This regular seminar series brings leading scientists to Plymouth to share their research with students, researchers and academic staff from the School of Marine and Biological Sciences.

We welcome an exciting programme of speakers on topics reflecting the diversity of research interest in the school, ranging from the molecular biology to broad-scale physical processes in both terrestrial and marine environments.

If you want to know anything more about our seminar series, please contact the organisers Dr Oliver Tills or Dr Bruno F. Simões

Schedule 2021/2022

Seminars take place approximately every 2 weeks during term time.

The seminar series is happening online during the COVID-19 pandemic. Recordings of seminars so far are available to University of Plymouth students and staff.

Semester 1

Friday, 8 October 2021 11:00
Friday, 22 October 2021 11:00
Friday, 5 November 2021 11:00
Friday, 19 November 2021 11:00
Friday, 3 December 2021 11:00
Friday, 17 December 2021 11:00

Semester 2

Friday, 4 February 2022 11:00
Friday, 18 February 2022 11:00
Friday, 4 March 2022 11:00
Friday, 18 March 2022 11:00
Friday, 1 April 2022 11:00
Friday, 6 May 2022 11:00

Living on the plateau: re-assessing the effect of environmental hypoxia on marine animals

John Spicer, University of Plymouth

Friday 3 December 2021, 11:00am via Zoom 

The change in climate impacts our ocean and everything that lives in it. In particular ocean warming, ocean acidification and hypoxia (reduced oxygen), the so called ‘deadly’ trio, are recognised as major drivers of biodiversity change. While the first two have received a lot of attention, the same cannot be said for the third, hypoxia. Our knowledge of short-term responses of marine life to hypoxia, and quite severe hypoxia at that is reasonably good. However, comparatively little attention has been paid to the effects of more, sustained moderate environmental hypoxia perhaps because moderate levels are currently not deemed to be detrimental to marine life. The talk will challenge this view and argue that even what we regard as moderate hypoxia may have major effects on marine life, from the molecular to the individual level and beyond.

Eco-physiology of free-roaming marine fishes

Clive Trueman, University of Southampton

Friday 19 November 2021, 11:00am via Zoom

Why do fish live where they do? How is fish performance and distribution likely to change with further ocean warming? Most current attempts to address these questions drawn on aspects of ecophysiological theory linking fish performance to water temperature and associated oxygen availability. However, most research into fish metabolic physiology draws on metabolic theory informed by laboratory-based quantifications of respiratory potential. Experimental studies of fish physiology are biased towards juvenile life stages of smaller bodied and more experimentally amenable taxa - which misses many commercially and ecologically important pelagic fishes. The relatively low sample sizes and unrepresentative conditions associated with laboratory experiments further question how well laboratory-based studies can capture physiological traits or predict organism-level responses to environmental change. Such fundamental knowledge gaps matter as predictions of changes in regional and global fisheries yields and fishery distributions depend on accurate mechanistic understanding of the responses of individuals and populations to climate change.

The combined metabolic cost of operating in the wild is the field metabolic rate (FMR). FMR is the most ecologically-relevant measure of metabolism, but has been extremely challenging to determine in wild and especially aquatic ectotherms. Recently, we have developed a method to infer field metabolic rates of fishes based on the stable isotope composition of otoliths. In this talk I will introduce the method and describe ongoing case studies to illustrate the broad potential of the method. We will explore: body mass and temperature scaling of field metabolic rate in marine fishes, seasonal variations in field metabolic rate associated with feeding and spawning in cod and plaice, the future of Atlantic bluefin tuna.

Securing reactive nitrogen for high value food and feed production in integrated bioremediation and energy generation systems

Dr Georgina Robinson, Scottish Association for Marine Science, UK

Friday 5 November 2021, 11:00am via Zoom

Nitrogen (N) has been identified as a potential driver of global food insecurity. Georgina is working as a UKRI Future Leaders Fellow with the ambitious vision of correcting imbalances in the global N cycle. She will do this by working with endogenous microbial communities to secure reactive forms of N for sustainable feed and food production systems, reduce environmental impacts and deliver increased societal and economic benefits for the UK.

The overall aim is to develop downstream integrated protein production, bioremediation and energy generation systems to treat N-rich and carbon (C)-rich waste streams from aquaculture and agriculture in terrestrial (soil) and marine (sediment) environments. These ecologically-driven systems are designed to harness the synergistic and concerted actions of microbial communities and deposit feeding invertebrates, to up-cycle N-rich waste into high value protein for human food (sea cucumbers) and alternative protein sources (polychaetes and earthworms) for agro-industry and provide a sustainable source of bioenergy by operating as soil/sediment microbial fuel cells (SMFC).

Genetics of behavioural isolation in tropical butterflies

Professor Richard Merrill, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Germany

Friday 22 October 2021, 11:00am via Zoom

Many species remain separate not because they fail to produce hybrids, but because their individuals effectively ‘choose’ not to mate in the first place. Although the significance of behavioural barriers has been recognized at least since the Modern Synthesis, we still know little about the genetic changes that underlie the evolution of mating preferences, or variation in behaviours across natural populations more broadly. The warning patterns of the Neotropical butterflies Heliconius cydno and H. melpomene are under disruptive selection for mimicry, and are also used during mate recognition. We report a genome-wide QTL analysis which reveals that divergent male preference between these species has a surprisingly simple genetic basis. We have identified a handful of candidate genes responsible for shifts in visual mate preference behaviours. These candidates suggest shifts in behaviour involve changes in visual integration or processing, allowing preference evolution without altering the perception of the wider environment. Finally, our emerging data suggest behavioural alleles have jumped the species barrier, and genomic signatures of adaptive introgression strongly implicating a single candidate that contributes to the evolution of visual preference behaviours in these butterflies.

Polar adaptations to the cold and responses in a warming world

Professor Melody Clark, British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge, UK

Friday 8 October 2021, 11:00am via Zoom

Professor Clark leads the Adaptations group at the British Antarctic Survey, which studies two main areas: how animals adapt to the extreme cold and how they may react in the face of predicted climate change. She is also interested in how molluscs produce their shells - essential protection if there’s a large iceberg in the area for the Antarctic species she studies.

In this seminar, Melody will briefly review some of the major adaptations to the cold in polar marine species, concentrating, in particular on Antarctic fish and invertebrates. She will then explain how molecular methods (transcriptomics or gene expression profiling) can be used to understand their responses in a changing world and to predict their future resilience. She will use examples from work conducted in both Antarctica and Greenland, which do not always provide the results expected!

Previous seminars