Why this Theme?
Links between climate change and abundance, range and phenology of populations are commonly reported, but detailed understanding of the biota’s potential to adapt, and our capacity to predict and manage such changes, remain limited. Combining expertise in the genetics and ecology of key animal, plant and microbial taxa with climate and paleoclimate science and modelling will enable informed predictions of how climate change will impact on biodiversity and ecosystem functioning, translating this knowledge into policy and planning.
eDNA approaches are rapidly being adopted in fields as diverse as forensics, invasive species mitigation, energy flow and biodiversity assessment, generating wide interest from governmental and non-governmental organisations. However, this topic requires careful integration and communication between scientific capabilities and end-user expectations. Adoption of eDNA technology as a ‘silver bullet’ approach in environmental issues is problematic, requiring more rigorous research into how sampling and environmental conditions affect the reliability of eDNA as a surrogate for species presence or abundance.
ARIES has considerable capability across the whole partnership for integrating strengths in evolution, ecology, work with key model organisms and ‘omics technologies (UEA, UoE, UoP, UoK, IoZ, CEH, BTO, PML, MBA, JIC, EI) with climate-change and paleoclimate science, social science, and modelling (RHL, UEA, BGS, BAS). This integration of phylogenetic, experimental and modelling-based methods allows us to understand the capacity of populations (including interacting populations) to adapt to different climate-change scenarios, including the study of additional drivers (such as pathogens), and the actions required to facilitate such adaptation. The involvement of key policy makers in ARIES projects will facilitate the application of new understanding and knowledge.
Projects in this area will also exploit ARIES expertise in eDNA-based and conventional population and community ecology over a range of ecosystems. ARIES has a wealth of expertise in conservation across several partners, with a particular focus at UoK’s Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE), IoZ and UEA, as well as in eDNA analysis, (e.g. at UoE, PML, MBA, CEH, UEA and EI).
Student training and employability
This topic will equip students with advanced molecular biological, bioinformatic, taxonomic, modelling and ecological skills. These skills, combined with those developed via cohort training, advanced training courses and opportunities to work with end users, will result in rounded, versatile environmental scientists, whose skills will be in demand in a wide range of sectors within and beyond conservation.
The Natural History Museum will provide excellent research and outreach opportunities. Nature Metrics is a partnering company whose business is the application of eDNA technologies, providing important contributions to research and training in this topic. In addition, ARIES has a large number of partners who can contribute to, and benefit from, this topic, as well as providing expert training and placement opportunities, e.g. major policy makers (the Defra group: EA, Cefas, JNCC, FR, MMO, NE), water, infrastructure and engineering organisations (e.g. Anglian Water, Balfour Beatty, Mott MacDonald, Royal Haskonings DHV), consultancies (e.g. MarineSpace Ltd., PML Applications, RPA), conservation bodies (e.g. Amphibian & Reptile Conservation Trust, Broads Authority, Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Chester Zoo, RSPB, WWF-UK), in addition to links to international governmental and non-governmental organisations. The understanding of pathogen adaptations to changing climate will benefit greatly from input from the Pirbright Institute and Public Health England (PHE).