Professor David Richardson (School of Biological Sciences, University of East Anglia)
Ms Rossyln McIntyre (Cefas)
Ms Samantha Stott (Cefas)
Dr Carly Daniels (National Lobster Hatchery)
Crustacean fisheries are worth more than £270 million per annum to the UK. Improved and more sustainable management of these commercially important stocks requires a better understanding of how fast individuals grow and the age structure of populations – lobsters are thought to live for as long as 70-100 years. Most fish and molluscs can be aged using growth rings laid down in calcified structures. However, crustaceans cannot be aged in this way as they periodically moult their entire exoskeleton. Recent research (led by UEA) has developed a novel method of ageing European lobsters by quantifying epigenetic modification of ribosomal DNA (which is a non-invasive method). This has been used to conduct a proof-of-concept age estimation of wild-caught lobsters. In order to apply the method widely in lobster (and other crustacean) fisheries management, further research and development is required at the interface between pure and applied research.
This project will:
1) Develop an improved lobster ageing model using a broad range of age and geographic origin of known age samples.
2) Investigate the role of the environment in epigenetic change associated with age using a combination of laboratory and sea-based experiments.
3) Conduct population-based assessments of wild lobster ages, assign individuals to age cohorts; estimate growth curves of different wild populations of lobsters around the UK and Ireland.
4) Develop rDNA methylation-based ageing methods for additional commercially important crustacean species e.g. edible crab (Cancer pagurus) and the Norway lobster (Nephrops norvegicus).
The applicant will receive training in molecular laboratory techniques such as DNA extraction, polymerase chain reaction (PCR), DNA sequencing and site-specific methylation quantification, advanced statistical methods in R, e.g. machine learning methods for regression, stock assessment methods for crustacean fisheries and experimental design.
The ideal candidate will have a degree in a relevant subject area (e.g. Biological Sciences) and have a strong interest in fisheries or crustacean biology, or the biology of ageing. Some experience with molecular laboratory techniques such as DNA extractions and PCR and strong IT skills (e.g. R) are desirable although training will be provided.