School of Biological and Marine Sciences Seminar Series 2021/2022

Archive of events

Stochastic-Deterministic downscaling as an efficient way to high-resolution ocean modelling: the Red Sea case study

Professor Georgy Shapiro, University of Plymouth
Friday 1 April 2022, University of Plymouth
High-resolution modelling of a large ocean domain requires significant computational resources. Common high-resolution models reveal greater details of spatial distribution of ocean variables; however, they increase the cost of computations, and are often prone to the so called ‘double penalty’ effect. This paper presents a Stochastic-Deterministic Downscaling (SDD) method, which is used to create the SMORS model and study the Red Sea dynamics. The model and observations are in good agreement, SMORS is not subject to the ‘double penalty’ effect and is computationally efficient (Window PC instead of HPC cluster).

Understanding seabird distributions in coastal environments

Dr James Waggitt, Bangor University
Friday 18 March 2022
Coastal environments support diverse communities of seabirds, exploiting the foraging opportunities available inshore. These environments are complex and, being at the interface of marine and terrestrial realms, are influenced by physical processes at-sea and inland. It is this importance and position which makes coastal communities sensitive to variation in ocean and weather conditions; it is also their convenient position alongside human settlements which makes them attractive for anthropogenic developments including Marine Renewable Energy Installations exploiting tide and wave resources. Understanding seabird distributions in coastal environments is important for assessing the combined and potentially substantial impact of changes in conditions and anthropogenic developments. This presentation outlines a range of past and current research projects investigating the impacts of physical conditions on coastal seabirds, in particular responses to persistent-predictable tidal cycles and intermittent-less predictable weather events.

Back to the future: what past marine climate can teach us about environments and ecosystems in an increasingly warmer world

Professor Anna Pienkowski, Norwegian Polar Institute
Friday 4 March 2022, University of Plymouth
The effects of human-driven climate change are particularly pronounced in polar regions. Physical changes, such as sea-ice decline and heightened warm water inflow, strongly impact ecosystems in both the Arctic and Antarctic. Yet, the period of time that these recent changes have been observed over is relatively short, hampering confident assessments of the future of these fragile polar environments. This talk will explore how geological archives such as the seabed can be used to decipher longer-term past environmental conditions and ecosystems, especially during periods of warmer-than-present climate. Linking past, present, and future, such information can illuminate underlying causes and contextualize recent and potential future polar changes

Climate change, thermal stress and biogeography along the Atlantic coast of Europe

Dr Fernando Lima, University of Porto, Portugal
Friday 18 February 2022, University of Plymouth
The intertidal is strongly influenced by meteorological conditions, providing a direct link between climate and biodiversity. Recent studies by us and others have been showing that temperature played a major role in determining modern and historical distributions of several key intertidal species. Yet, the mechanisms translating small-scale, individual patterns in temperature into large-scale invasions and range shifts remain virtually unknown. To tackle this issue, we have been collecting data from a unique network of autonomous sensors and loggers deployed along the European coast. Coupled with in-situ measurements of sub-lethal thermal stress (via protein expression and cardiac activity), these data suggest that intertidal habitats are a mosaic of very stressful environments interspersed with areas of low stress. We are trying to understand the importance of this variability in determining large-scale macroecological processes. Of central interest is the degree to which environmental variability modulates (exacerbating or buffering) the long-term effects of global warming.

Radiation, land-use history and fire impacts on the Chernobyl exclusion zone soil microbiome

Alex de Menezes, National University of Ireland, Ryan Institute
Friday 4 February 2022

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!