Developing more sustainable crustacean fisheries through improved age determination and stock assessment


Developing more sustainable crustacean fisheries through improved age determination and stock assessment


Project Description


Dr Martin Taylor (School of Biological Sciences, University of East Anglia) – Contact me

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)


Project Background

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.

Person specification

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.


  • 1) Fairfield, E.A., Richardson, D. S. Daniels, C. L., Butler, C. L., Bell, E. & Taylor, M. I. 2021. Ageing European lobsters (Homarus gammarus) using DNA methylation of evolutionarily-conserved ribosomal DNA. Evolutionary Applications (in press).
  • 2) Spurgin, L. G., Bebbington, K., Fairfield, E. A., Hammers, M., Komdeur, J., Burke, T., Dugdale, H. L. & Richardson, D. S., Jan 2018, In : Journal of Animal Ecology. 87, 1, p. 187–198 12 p.
  • 3) Cefas (2020). Lobster (Homarus gammarus). Cefas Stock Status Report 2019 18 pp.
  • 4) Wang, M., & Lemos, B. (2019). Ribosomal DNA harbors an evolutionarily conserved clock of biological aging. Genome Research, 29(3), 325–333.

Key Information

  • This project has been shortlisted for funding by the ARIES NERC DTP and will start on 1st October 2022. The closing date for applications is 23:59 on 12th January 2022.
  • Successful candidates who meet UKRI’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship, which covers fees, stipend (£15,609 p.a. for 2021-22) and research funding. International applicants (EU and non-EU) are eligible for fully-funded UKRI studentships. Please note ARIES funding does not cover visa costs (including immigration health surcharge) or other additional costs associated with relocation to the UK.
  • ARIES students benefit from bespoke graduate training and ARIES provides £2,500 to every student for access to external training, travel and conferences. Excellent applicants from quantitative disciplines with limited experience in environmental sciences may be considered for an additional 3-month stipend to take advanced-level courses in the subject area.
  • ARIES is committed to equality, diversity, widening participation and inclusion in all areas of its operation. We encourage enquiries and applications from all sections of the community regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation and transgender status. Academic qualifications are considered alongside non-academic experience, and our recruitment process considers potential with the same weighting as past experience.
  • All ARIES studentships may be undertaken on a part-time or full-time basis, visa requirements notwithstanding
  • For further information, please contact the supervisor. To apply for this Studentship click on the “Apply now” link below.
  • ARIES is required by our funders to collect Equality and Diversity Information from all of our applicants. The information you provide will be used solely for monitoring and statistical purposes; it will remain confidential, and will be stored on the UEA sharepoint server. Data will not be shared with those involved in making decisions on the award of Studentships, and will have no influence on the success of your application. It will only be shared outside of this group in an anonymised and aggregated form. You will be ask to complete the form by the University to which you apply.

Applications are open

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