PhD project “Assessment of adaptive genetic variation for management and conservation purpose of European Grayling”
Sampling Rivers: Hampshire Avon, Wylye, Yorkshire Derwent, Ure, Pickering Beck, Dee, Irfon, Severn, Wye, Clyde, Eden, Itchen, Aire and River Dove
I have started to work on my PhD project “Assessment of adaptive genetic variation for management and conservation of European Grayling”, jointly funded by Manchester University and the Grayling Research Trust, last year in September.
The objective of the study is to assess genetic variation of immune relevant genes within different Grayling populations in the UK. A previous genetic study funded by the GRT and conducted at Bangor University found strong differentiation of Grayling populations in the UK, which can be mainly grouped into four geographic areas of origin (Dawnay et al., 2011). In this study neutral genetic markers, which have no known function have been used, as it has been the common method in population genetics until recently. With new and more cost effective sequencing technologies it is now possible to sequence coding genes on a large scale. Variation of coding genes is more informative as it is more likely to represent adaptations to environmental conditions. My first question is therefore whether adaptive variation of grayling in the UK corresponds to the neutral variation earlier described or if adaptations to local environmental conditions happen on a smaller scale. This is important for management practices like stocking in order to enhance the probability of survival of introduced fish and to avoid counterproductive effects if maladapted introduced fish mix with native stocks.
The adaptive variation will then be compared to environmental factors like bacterial diversity, temperature and pollution in order to understand how populations respond to environmental conditions. That is important for effective conservation strategy because the potential of a species to adapt to a changing environment is crucial for its persistence, especially in the context of climate change and other ecosystem alterations due to human activities that are rapidly taking place. To identify where demographic constraints like low population sizes or environmental stress prevent a population from responding to environmental changes is therefore helpful to improve conditions.
At the moment, I am planning the sampling of grayling during the coming summer season, starting in June. I cannot do a lot of sampling myself and therefore depend on anglers contributing samples to the project. The procedure is very simple. I am taking swabs from the mouth and probably the skin to get DNA material. Additionally I require a fork length measurement of the fish. The rivers I am interested in sampling are the following: Yorkshire Derwent, Ure, Pickering Beck, Wylye, Dee, Irfon, Severn, Wye, Clyde, Eden, Itchen, Aire, Dove and Hampshire Avon.
If you are interested in assisting in sampling grayling in any of these rivers during this summer, I would be happy to send you a sampling kit with the necessary material. I highly appreciate every help!
Please contact me at: [email protected]
Many thanks! Vanessa