Staff news

Mike Cullen Research Fellow Award

Congratulations to Giulia Ghedini who was recently awarded the Mike Cullen Research Fellow Award. This prize was awarded to Giulia for her Ecology paper Does energy flux predict density-dependence? An empirical field test, which was the subject of a previous post.

Giulia’s work is important because it is the first demonstration of the energetic mechanisms that underpin density-dependence. Up until now reductions in body size in denser populations have been attributed to reduced food intake due to increased competition, but Giulia found that it was not so simple. In her study, she found that population density influences both the energy intake (food consumption) and expenditure (metabolism) of individuals. By reconstructing their energy budgets across population densities, she was able to demonstrate that smaller sizes result from the faster decline of energy intake relative to expenditure as density increases, such that scope for growth is reduced.

New interdisciplinary study 

Martino Malerba will be starting work in collaboration with the Faculty of Engineering to measure the metabolism and energy output of individual cells simultaneously.  This cross disciplinary study is funded by the faculties of Science, IT and Engineering and will bring together techniques developed in the two departments and which have never been combined before.

Martino’s algal cells undergoing high throughput phenotypic arrays.

Martino will be using his artificially evolved large and small algal cells described in previous posts to ask the fundamental biological question how much of the total energy (metabolism) of a cell is invested into locomotion, that is, energy output? To do this Martino and Callum Atkinson from the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering will first characterize total metabolic energy of individual cells, using the high throughput phenotypic array in the Centre for Geometric Biology.

Then, for the same cells, Martino and Callum will use the techniques developed in Laboratory for Turbulence Research in Aerospace and Combustion (LTRAC) to analyse the power output associated with swimming performance of cells moving through the fluid.

Moving on

Amanda is now officially Dr Pettersen and will be moving to Sweden in a couple of months.  Amanda has been awarded a Postdoctoral scholarship from the Wenner-Gren foundation to undertake research for 1–2 years on maternal affects and climactic adaptation in wall lizards (Podarcis muralis) at Lund University with Tobias Uller. 

Amanda’s new study species, the wall lizard Podarcis muralis. Image credit Philippe Garcelon via Flickr.

While commonly distributed throughout Mediterranean Europe, wall lizards have more recently been introduced north of their natural range to England. Despite experiencing air and soil temperatures 6–10 °C cooler than their native range, introduced populations in England have rapidly adapted to their cooler climate, exhibiting faster embryo growth and developmental rates which allows offspring to complete development before winter. Through the use of experimental approaches, Amanda hopes to identify general mechanisms by which maternal effects facilitate rapid, counter-gradient adaptation.