Last week Shaun was in Bergen, Norway, for a meeting of collaborators and consultants on the ConEvolHer Project, coordinated by Katja Enberg. It was an incredibly stimulating week of science with some fantastic people. Thank you Katja and lab for organising such a great meeting!
Immediately after returning from China, Shaun was off last week to the University of Essex, to meet with Tom Cameron and give a departmental talk. Thanks to Tom and lab for being such fantastic hosts!
This month Lucy and Shaun went to China to work with Shi-Jian Fu and colleagues at Chongqing Normal University. The aim was to examine how metabolism and feeding interact to affect fish social behaviour. As always it was an amazingly fun and productive trip. We are already looking forward to our return!
Last week Shaun traveled to the University of Jyväskylä to give a talk and visit Pauliina Ahti, Silva Uusi-Heikkilä, and Anna Kuparinen. The trip was filled with lots of great conversation about fishy science, Finnish treats, and beer! Thanks to all for an amazing visit!
For the second year in a row Shaun and Tommy went to the CRIOBE research station on the island of Moorea to work with Suzie Mills, Ricardo Beldade, and PhD student Daphne Cortese. This time they were also accompanied by Amelie Crespel. Once again the goal was to carryout a range of studies looking at how factors such as flow rate and anenome bleaching affect young clownfish. Thanks to all for an incredibly fun and productive trip!
Project Summary – Atlantic salmon are an iconic species that are ecologically and economically of great importance. This project will study the collective behaviour of migrating Atlantic salmon using a combination of field studies, mathematical modelling and data analysis. The project will evaluate whether collective behaviour has positive consequences on the fecundity and survival of Atlantic salmon and enables them to more effectively navigate their environment. Whether this creates tipping points in population abundance will be assessed by examining the potential for feedbacks among population size, group sizes and group function. The ultimate goal is to develop a mechanistic framework to predict the impact of altered habitats on the migration and population dynamics of Atlantic salmon in Scotland.
Core questions of the project will be:
How does group size affect navigational accuracy? Field work will be performed using an array of acoustic receivers to allow imaging of the migration of varying numbers of returning Atlantic salmon and investigation of how group decision-making impacts migration routes. How does group size influence ability to navigate novel challenges? The student will examine whether social behaviour alters the ability of salmon to cross human introduced barriers such as fish ladders or fishing traps. Will fishing strategies target certain types of individual and lead to evolutionary responses that may impact the migration? Computer simulations will utilize known patterns of fish movement in groups to examine how salmon respond to barriers and deployed passive fishing gears, and whether this will result in novel selection pressure on the species. How does collective movement influence population dynamics of Atlantic salmon? Informed by the results of the behavioural studies the final stage of the project will develop spatial metapopulation models that incorporate a feedback between population size and the ability of groups to navigate.
Project Team and where student will be based – The student will be co-supervised by Colin Torney (School of Mathematics and Statistics), Shaun Killen (Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health, and Comparative Medicine [IBAHCM]), and Colin Adams (IBAHCM). When not performing fieldwork, the student will be based either in the Mathematics building or Graham Kerr building, depending on the type of analysis being carried out at a given time.
Person Specification - This studentship is open to candidates of any nationality – UK, EU or International. Applicants should demonstrate the following:
- 1st/2.1 undergraduate or masters degree in subject with strong quantitative component
- Strong quantitative skills including experience of mathematical modelling and programming (python/matlab/c++)
- Experience of field work and/or animal behaviour studies desirable
- Ability to work independently and as part of an interdisciplinary research team
Application Process - In the first instance prospective applicants should contact Colin Torney, firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your eligibility.
Applicants may submit applications here up until the application deadline of February 16 2018.
This month our lab extends a warm welcome to Lucy Cotgrove, who will be doing a PhD studying context-dependent leadership in collective behaviour, focusing on fish behaviour in a project co-supervised by Grant Hopcraft, Colin Torney and Dirk Husmeier.
Lucy has broad interests including population ecology and how this varies under different pressures. In the long term, she aims to look at how how her interests can be used to implement conservation methods leading to improving sustainable seafood practices. Lucy completed her MSc in Marine Biology at Bangor University, Wales where she worked with IMEDEA, Mallorca, exploring the effect of anthropogenically altered water masses on juvenile fish behaviour. Before moving to Glasgow, Lucy worked as a hatchery technician and has been involved in a project with Cefas, exploring population distribution of vulnerable elasmobranchs in the UK.
Along with Grant Hopcraft, Colin Torney, and Dirk Husmeier, I'm currently seeking promising applicants for our bid for an MVLS/EPSRC PhD Studentship. In total, six studentships will be awarded from the pool of 24 potential projects. Our project would be an exciting blend of experimental biology and modelling to examine the flexible nature of leadership in animal social groups spanning wildebeest herds to fish schools. Here is a rundown:
Highly coordinated movement in social animals raises questions about how collective decisions are made and leadership roles. For example, a bait-ball of fish responding to predator attacks is likely a product of each individual balancing the information about their immediate environment (predator versus no predator) that is nested within a matrix of information from neighbours whose perception is be beyond that of the focal animal. This balanced but hierarchical information structure could lead to coordinated reactionary swarms. In reality, however, these swarms also navigate and problem solve as they move through complex environments. Coordinated navigation suggests that a group of naïve organisms may actually make intelligent and informed decisions about where and when to move via some form of consensus that may be governed by rules of social influence. This poses interesting questions that relate to complexity science, information and communication, and the statistical inference and applied probability in biological informatics. For instance; are small groups equally efficient at navigating complex habitats as large groups? Are multi-species groups better than single species swarms? Does the mantle of leadership change between individuals based on the type of decision required such that different individuals are more decisive under certain scenarios (e.g. some individuals in the group make the left-right decisions, while others are decisive in fight-flight)? Do leaders always assume certain positions in the group, such as core vs peripheral, and are there specific locations where they are most effectual? We propose a PhD project that uses hours of aerial drone videography of wildebeest and zebra migrations in the Serengeti in which the movement of hundreds individuals can be tracked at once using image recognition algorithms (Dr. Hopcraft [IBAHCM] & Dr Torney [Maths]). The detailed analysis of this footage using equation-free modelling techniques will illustrate how movement decisions vary across scales and under a variety of natural conditions these animals face (navigating river crossings, moving through risky habitats, etc). The student will then use schools of aquaria fish (Dr. Killen [IBAHCM]) to experimentally manipulate groups to test ideas about how group size, conspecific characteristics, and relative position alter the roles of leadership and the ability to navigate complex environments. The application of equation-free modelling will train the student in multiscale computation and computer-aided analysis that is particularly informative when the evolution of an emergent property of the system is observed at a macroscopic scale (such as collective decisions by groups), but is dependent on explicit dynamical models that operate at a more detailed fine-scale (individual decisions operating at short time steps). Understanding the mathematics of how natural systems optimize information transfer and group size provides a fertile environment for a PhD student to explore analogous applications in swarm robotics and sensor technology as well as crowd control and emergency evacuations (Dr Torney and Dr Husmeier).
For more info on how to apply, click here!
This week several members of the lab traveled to Gothenburg, Sweden, to present their work at the annual meeting of the Society for Experimental Biology. It was also a chance to catch up with old friends and colleagues from around the global research community as well as explore some of the sites and pubs of Gothenburg!
On Day 1 of the conference Shaun Killen chaired a session along with Carol Bucking (York University, Canada) on Constraints on Adaptation and Performance. It was a fantastic, well-attended session with talks spanning all major animal taxa. Also on this day Shaun gave the President's Medal Address for the Animal Section of the SEB (click here for a PDF version of the talk slides). Tommy Norin also gave a fantastic talk on day 1 summarizing his work with Neil Metcalfe, looking at how environmental factors influence behavioural and physiological plasticity in minnows.
On Day 2 Shaun Killen chaired another session, co-organised by Lewis Halsey (University of Roehampton), which explored the idea of whether or not wild animals engage in exercise and the costs of physical activity. In the evening Tiff Armstrong presented her poster on her recent collaborative work in Texas with Andrew Esbaugh examining the effects of crude oil exposure on shoaling behaviour in Atlantic croaker. Tommy Norin also presented two posters showing collaborative work among himself, Shaun Killen, and colleagues at CRIOBE in Moorea, Tahiti.
Day 3 was a busy one with Julie Nati giving an excellent talk (slides here) on her recent Biology Letters paper showing that there is no trade-off between peak performance and performance breadth for aerobic scope across temperatures for fishes. Shaun Killen also chaired the ecophysiology section of the Open Biology session. Anna Persson and Amelie Crespel also gave Pecha Kucha talks promoting their posters. The poster session was later that evening where Davide Thambithurai and Mar Yerli Pineda also presented their work.
Day 4 was a bit more quiet. During the awards ceremony Shaun Killen received the Animal Section President's Medal. In the evening in was time to party at the traditional SEB banquet!
This week Anita Racz traveled to here native Hungary to attend the 10th Annual European Zebrafish Meeting. There she presented her poster on a project carried out by herself and Toni Dwyer examining the effectiveness of various disinfectant methods for zebrafish eggs. Well done Anita!
Many if not most animal species live in social groups (think fish schools, bird flocks, insect swarms, mammalian herds), but the way in which these groups form remains a mystery. It is known that animals often choose to group with members of their own species that look similar to themselves, are the same size, or are related. But, could there be underlying physiological traits that also determine how animals within a species sort into groups? Furthermore, after animals have formed groups, is there spatial distribution patterns within the groups that are influenced by physiological or performance traits? The answers to these questions will have a range of effects on group performance, responses to environmental change, group cohesion, and assortative mating and evolutionary trajectories. A new paper by Shaun Killen and colleagues reviews these topics & more. Read the open access papers here!:
Killen, S.S., Marras, S., Nadler, L.E., Domenici, P. 2017. The role of physiological traits in assortment among and within fish shoals. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. 372: 20160236.
Today Julie officially became Dr Julie Nati, PhD! It is extremely well-deserved after years of hard work and a fantastic thesis. She will be greatly missed by our lab and institute! Congratulations Julie!
Organophosphate pesticides are used worldwide and often end up polluting waterways. These substances are known to have sub-lethal effects on fish, generally impairing swimming ability via a range of physiological mechanisms. Most studies in this area, however, focus on mean-level responses to pesticide exposure. In this study, we aimed to determine whether individual fish within a species were more or less sensitive to exposure to organophosphate pesticides. In summary, pesticide impaired swimming performance in all fish performance by reducing swimming efficiency, but individual tilapia varied widely in their relative sensitivity. Intrinsic individual metabolic physiology determined effects of the pesticide on performance and, in particular, good swimmers remained better swimmers after exposure. This individual variation in sensitivity could play a role in selective processes and evolutionary responses in polluted habitats. Read more in the OPEN access article, here:
McKenzie, D. J., Blasco, F. R., Belão, T. C., Killen, S. S., Martins, N. D., Taylor, E. W., & Rantin, F. T. (2017). Physiological determinants of individual variation in sensitivity to an organophosphate pesticide in Nile tilapia Oreochromis niloticus. Aquatic Toxicology, 189, 108-114.
A big congratulations to PhD student Jack Hollins, who was recently awarded a grant from the NERC Life Sciences Mass Spectrometry Facility for his project entitled “The relationships among physiological traits, intraspecific niche variation, and susceptibility to capture by different fishing gears”. Among other things Jack will be using stable isotope analysis to understand differences in behaviour and physiology of individual fish within species.
This week Barbara participated to the final meeting of the Biodiversa funded SalmoInvade-project which tackles the many causes and consequences of non-native salmonid invasions.
The latest results from this multidisciplinary research project combine biological and human dimensions, with projects carried out by France, Germany, Norway and Sweden, were presented at the marine station Kristineberg (University of Gothenburg) in front of an international panel of stakeholders and scientists. Key-results will be integrated to formulate recommendations for policy and management of salmonid invasions in Europe. In addition to presentations from the SalmoInvade research team, Professor Jeffrey Hutchings gave a keynote presentation on “Population Colonization, Evolution, and Recovery”. Great time catching up with former colleagues and coming back to Sweden!
On Thursday we saw the arrival of a couple of lab visitors from Italy. Stefano Marras (left) is a longtime friend and collaborator while Luca Pettinau is a Master's student who will be visiting our lab for three months. While here they'll be working on a project looking at how trait variation within fish schools influences shoal cohesion.
Introducing the newest iteration of our miniature trawl simulator - MiniTrawl 3.0. Kudos to Davide Thambithurai, Jack Hollins, and Travis van Leuween for tweaking the design up until this point. This version includes a special rear compartment to shield captured fish from the oncoming flow, plus lower and upper escape areas in the trawl mouth. This photo shows a school of zebrafish swimming ahead of the trawl net. As they tire or turn they are captured in the net unless they are able to find an escape route. This setup is being used in our laboratory simulations of trawling to determine why some fish are more vulnerable to capture than others.
This week Shaun visited Toulouse to give a seminar at the CNRS Laboratoire Evolution & Diversité Biologique. While there Shaun was hosted by Libor Zvorka, Julien Cucherousset (@JCucheFish), and new Killen lab post-doc Barbara Koeck. Thanks to all for a fantastic visit with lots of stimulating conversation, cool research ideas, and of course lots of beer!
This week Shaun visited friends and colleagues Katja Enberg and Christian Jörgensen in Bergen, Norway. While there he gave at talk at the Institute of Marine Research and drank far too much whiskey. Thank you Katja and Christian for being such amazing hosts!
Yesterday Shaun Killen made the not-so-long trek to Edinburgh to participate in a double-bill seminar set focusing on nature-inspired engineering. The event was organised by Ignazio Viola (School of Engineering, University of Edinburgh) and Shaun spoke alongside Kiran Ramesh (School of Engineering, University of Glasgow). Kiran, Ignazio, and Shaun have recently received funding from a Carnegie Collaborative Grant to examine how fish swimming biomechanics may help inform the design and arrangement of wave power turbines.
The seminar event was a lot of fun with some great discussion with people in attendance from both engineering and biological sciences. Unfortunately for Shaun, however, he was dismayed when Kiran informed him that large dragons could never fly with flapping wings because the the power of the leading edge vortices required to provide the lift would need to be so powerful that they would basically tear the wings from the body. Dreams shattered.