Kaila Wheatley Kornblum, postgraduate researcher, CDT SuMMeR: Cohort 1
Centre for Doctoral Training in Sustainable Management of UK Marine Resources (CDT SuMMeR)
Postgraduate researcher: Kaila Wheatley Kornblum
Project: CDTS124: Factors limiting marine connectivity at a species’ range edge – the case of the pink sea fan, Eunicella verrucos
Hosting Institute: University of Exeter
Associate Partners: Bangor University, Horniman Aquarium & Museum London, Natural England, Natural Resources Wales (NRW)
A background in Marine and freshwater Biology (BSc Hons – thesis on the drivers and dynamics of shark fisheries and conservation) and marine population genetics (MRes in Bioscience – thesis on the factors driving long-finned pilot whale mass stranding events in the Falkland Islands). Co-Founder, Biologist, Trainer and Dive Instructor at the Red Sea Project an international non-profit organisation dedicated to the protection and conservation of the marine ecosystems and biodiversity of the Red Sea.
I am interested in how population genetics combined with a transdisciplinary approach can assist in the implementation of effective conservation strategies by feeding into policy and legislation. Population genetics is a very powerful tool that can give valuable insights into the structure and dynamics of populations but comes with the risk of missing contemporary processes. This can be avoided by using a holistic and transdisciplinary approach to address complex biological questions which I find interesting as it combines approaches from different disciplines to give a more thorough understanding of the question or subject.
PhD research: Factors limiting marine connectivity at a species range edge – the case of the pink sea fan, Eunicella verrucosa
The project aims to understand the factors shaping range edge populations of the pink sea fan (Eunicella verrucosa), a gorgonian coral ranging from the northwest of Ireland to the southern Mediterranean. In the UK, E. verrucosa is a protected species under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and is a key factor in the designation of several MCZs in the waters of southern England.
Gaining a better understanding of connectivity, diversity and limiting factors is crucial for efficient conservation and the designation of further MCZs. The project aims to achieve this through a holistic, multidisciplinary approach including, population genetics, aquarium studies, oceanographic modelling and fieldwork. We aim to design an SNP panel for E. verrucosa from the most discriminative SNPs (obtained from an ongoing project). This will allow us to investigate parentage and identify the origin of recruits, as well as the extent of selfing in isolated populations. The aquarium studies aim to determine the most important biological factors regarding temperature thresholds, spawning and settlement, of which little is currently known. For oceanographic modelling, these factors will be used to model connectivity, dispersal capabilities and future ranges expansions. Fieldwork will aid the aquarium work in understanding the factors critical for spawning and settlement, as well as sample collection of new recruits at range edges, whilst extending sample coverage across the range. We aim to gain a better understanding of E. verrucosa biology, connectivity and limiting factors and feed into policy and legislation regarding MCZs and MPAs.
Why I applied for the CDT SuMMeR
I like the multidisciplinary approach a lot and think it’s a great opportunity to learn and adapt a more holistic approach to research questions. Furthermore, I think it is very exciting to get the opportunity to learn how research feeds into policies and legislation and a great prospect to be part of that process. In addition to the multidisciplinary approach, I value the associated patterns of the project a lot as it’s an amazing opportunity to learn from experts in their field, facilitate science, work together towards conservation and build a network.