Iceland represents a natural laboratory for studying the colonization of freshwater habitats by fish since rivers and lakes all date from the end of the last Ice-Age less than 10,000 years ago. The North Atlantic provided a refuge for species such as arctic charr (Salvelinus alpinus) which invaded freshwater once the ice retreated. New habitats and the lack of competing species led to the appearance of different forms of Artic charr, called morphs. In particular, 27 discrete populations of dwarf charr have been identified with specialised feeding morphology that enables them to exploit the small larval fissures on the bottom of streams and lakes. Our Icelandic and Canadian partners have collected an enormous amount of data on each of the dwarf populations including, habitat characteristics (temperature and bottom type), diet, maximum body size, size and age at sexual maturity and cranial morphology. Other studies in progress on rapidly evolving DNA sequences we will enable us to determine the relationships between each population and estimate which ones arose independently allowing us to study the repeatability of evolution for populations living in similar habitats. Studies involving such diverse organisms as worms, flies and vertebrates suggest that poor nutrition alone is sufficient to produce dwarfism via effects on the signaling pathways controlled by the hormone Insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I): indicating a universal and conserved biological mechanism. Intriguingly, in the zebrafish, which is often used for studies of development, so-called 'knock-outs' of an IGF-binding-protein gene also caused alterations to the shape of the head which are reminiscent of those found in dwarf charr. We will therefore experimentally test the hypothesis that interactions between the environment and the IGF-hormone system during development can produce the specialised jaw and cranial morphology characteristic of the dwarf phenotype. Since early development in fish is entirely dependent on genetic messages passed through the egg yolk we will conduct experiments to determine whether it is the environment of the mother, the embryo or both that are important for producing fish with dwarf characteristics. Thingvallavatn, the largest and oldest lake in Iceland, contains four Arctic charr morphs, including a dwarf form, which are specialised to exploit different habitats. Laboratory breeding experiments have shown that the large differences in body size, morphology and life history such as the size at sexual maturity are heritable. This suggests that intense competition between morphs and reproductive isolation has resulted in natural selection and specialization for characters helping each morph to survive in their chosen environment. Previously we showed that dwarfism in the Thingvallavatn charr has resulted in a reduction in the number of muscle fibres in the trunk, which is thought to lower costs of maintenance relative to the ancestral charr. By studying a large number of Arctic charr populations (15 dwarfs and 5 generalists) we will test the generality of the hypothesis that the relative importance of developmental plasticity versus selection for setting muscle fibre number is related to the age and stability of the habitat and is different depending on whether there is competition with other morphs. The research is important because it addresses the fundamental question of how natural selection and plasticity operate to produce different forms of the same species at the level of physiological systems. The evolution of different morphs of the same species is relatively common and is found, for example, in sticklebacks and African cichclids. The practical application of this research is in understanding how the biodiversity of fish populations arises and how it may be conserved for future generations.
Through this project we are proposing two innovative technologies to be used to stop the spread of AMR pathogens in poultry chain viz. Hydroxyl radicals' technology from Canada, and a phage biosanitizer technology from the UK. Although aqueous-based hydroxyl radical systems are used frequently, the application in the gas phase is a relatively new development and hence more in-depth studies on the effectiveness of gas phase version on food commodities and their environments is needed. Poultry chain effectiveness will address AMR pathogens in the poultry chain. Late Prof William Waites of the University of Nottingham, UK was the first to see the potential of gas phase Advanced Oxidation Process (AOP) in food processing. The gas phase-hydroxyl radical process generates highly antimicrobial vapour through the ultraviolet light mediated degradation of hydrogen peroxide and ozone. The radicals inactivate microbes without leaving toxic residues. The technology is flexible and can be applied in the form of a tunnel, batch system or handheld device. In this project we will use Hydroxyl radicals to disinfect poultry environments, eggs, crates, poultry meat etc. The hydroxyl-radical treatment can effectively inactivate pathogens although there is no residual antimicrobial activity. Therefore, the application of bacteriophage post-hydroxyl radical treatment will act to prevent pathogens becoming re-established on the disinfected surface. Research by our Canadian partner has demonstrated effective AOP decontamination over a diverse range of fruit and vegetable types with an added benefit of extending shelf-life. Their current research has applied the same method for decontaminating shelled eggs, crates and poultry meat. Within the hatchery studies it has been demonstrated that the hydroxyl radical process can inactivate of Salmonella within 10s (5 log CFU reduction) without effecting the egg integrity or embryo development. Bacteriophages (phages in short) are naturally occurring bacterial viruses which specifically infect and kill bacteria leaving good microbes alone. This ability of the phages is being harnessed in controlling bacteria in various settings. The major concern for environmental application is method of application and viability of phages especially of the tailed phages. This project will explore the sustainable method of phage application through dry phage powder which could be dissolved into water during field application and also check the viability of tailed phages compared to non-tailed phages. Moreover, the strains of Salmonella and Campylobacter that will be targeted are the most prevalent in the UK and Canada which will be beneficial to the poultry chains in both the countries. The novelty of our dry phage powder approach lies in the development of cutting-edge prototype stable phage products that can be easily and cheaply incorporated into water for environmental spraying, or applied directly to animal carcasses to remove Salmonella and Campylobacter spp. This is important because traditionally phage products are unstable, and difficult to deliver to animals or applied to meat products, and thus potential benefits of using phages have been overshadowed by these hurdles needed to translate the science into a viable commercial product. The reason for using spray dried phages is that the technique is a highly scalable, widely used, efficient and inexpensive method. A stable phage product negates the need for complicated storage and it removes barriers for delivery. The feasibility of this method to produce powdered phages has already been proven in studies assessing the potential of processing into powders. We will integrate these two technologies wherein Hydroxyl radical technology (vapour based which is able to provide whole volume including air disinfection) and phage biosanitizers to control recontamination from re-introduction of day-of-hatch chicks into the environment would be possible.
ESRC : Aimee Morse : ES/P00069X/1 This research will build on Marr et al's (2016) paper which explores the differences in agri-environment policies in Ontario and England. While the UK has moved away from a productivist framework, Ontario employs a land-sparing strategy to ensure its agricultural land can be used to its productive potential (Marr et al, 2016). Where environmental stewardship has been encouraged this is only on a voluntary basis, as opposed to the payments farmers receive for stewarding their land in the UK. Despite their differences, both countries now recognise the value of collaborative working in landscape protection and encourage collaborative projects in a number of ways. With this in mind, I propose a project which seeks to understand how effective communication can facilitate successful collaborative working for the delivery of landscapescale conservation schemes. Communication is an essential part of successful collaboration; thus, for collaborative working to reach its full potential the specific goals and motivations of land manager groups, or environmental organisations, must be clear and communicated to all members (Ostrom, 1998; Mills et al, 2011; Emery and Franks, 2012). Where communication is lacking, there can be detrimental effects, both to the social capital of the group and also to the environment they are working together to conserve. The proposed project would discover multiple stakeholders' perspectives on the potential success of landscape-scale conservation in Ontario (lending geographic novelty to this work) through interviews facilitated by the strong working relationships among faculty staff at the University of Guelph, policy makers and advisers in Agri-Food Canada and a multitude of agricultural and environmental organisations in Ontario. In particular I would focus on their views regarding the communication of environmental program aims in three areas: within their own organisation; between themselves and other organisations; and with farmers and land managers. After gaining an understanding of the issues they raise with regards to communication, I will assess the positive and negative impacts of their communication strategies on the conservation efforts they are involved in. Where these are negative, I would aim to suggest means by which these barriers might be overcome to promote the successful delivery of landscape scale conservation by multiple stakeholders. I will compare their perspectives with those of the land managers and facilitators I will be interviewing for my doctoral research in England to lend a comparative insight to the work. An early evaluation of the CSFF in England reflected a broadly positive response to the outcomes of the scheme (ADAS, 2018), however through my research I hope to discover more about how and why these collaborations have worked through assessing group members' perspectives on collaborative working and the relationships and skills they have gained from being a part of a funded group. This will include discussions around how well the group have communicated their views and intentions during the period in which they were funded.