Understanding how and why individuals develop strikingly different life histories is a major goal in evolutionary biology. It is also a prerequisite for conserving important biodiversity within species and predicting the impacts of environmental change on populations. The aim of my study is to examine a key threshold phenotypic trait (alternative migratory tactics) in a series of large scale laboratory and field experiments, integrating several previously independent perspectives from evolutionary ecology, ecophysiology and genomics, to produce a downstream predictive model. My chosen study species, the brown trout Salmo trutta, has an extensive history of genetic and experimental work and exhibits ‘partial migration’: individuals either migrate to sea (‘sea trout’) or remain in freshwater their whole lives. Recent advances in molecular parentage assignment, quantitative genetics and genomics (next generation sequencing and bioinformatics) will allow unprecedented insight into how alternative life history phenotypes are moulded by the interaction between genes and environment. To provide additional mechanistic understanding of these processes, the balance between metabolic requirements during growth and available extrinsic resources will be investigated as the major physiological driver of migratory behaviour. Together these results will be used to develop a predictive model to explore the consequences of rapid environmental change, accounting for the effects of genetics and environment on phenotype and on population demographics. In addition to their value for conservation and management of an iconic and key species in European freshwaters and coastal seas, these results will generate novel insight into the evolution of migratory behaviour generally, providing a text book example of how alternative life histories are shaped and maintained in wild populations.
Open Access mandate for Publications and Research data
Funder: EC Project Code: 101067741
Funder Contribution: 215,534 EUR
Our memory is essential for all aspects of our lives. Memories are encoded in the brain by coordinated neuronal activity in the hippocampus. Disruption of this coordination is associated with neurological/psychiatric disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia affecting spatial and social memories. Emerging data suggests that the gut microbiota can influence the brain through the vagus nerve with involvements in an increasing number of mental health conditions including those impairing memory. However, these associations are correlative and the precise microbiota-vagal effects on brain physiology remain to be defined. Can we decode hippocampal neuronal mechanisms contributing to gut-vagal modulation of memory? REMEMBER aims to establish an integrative functional definition of two distinct and specialised neuronal pathways arising from the vagus-innervated brainstem which are likely to carry microbiota-initiated information into the hippocampus. By combining state-of-the-art viral tracing, behavioural tests, microbiome-vagal manipulations and in vivo electrophysiology, I propose investigations of progressive levels of biological complexity. REMEMBER will bring new insights into the regulation of memory and may pave the way for transformative microbiota- and vagus-oriented treatments for people living with memory decline, addressing a public health priority. I will design an open sharing strategy for the dissemination and communication of my findings to maximise their impact. This fellowship will provide me with interdisciplinary expertise by complementing my knowledge in neuroscience with microbiome research and it will support my transition to independence at APC Microbiome Ireland. I will grow my network and gain valuable international training and intersectoral exposure through secondments at Icahn School of Medicine in New York and The Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle strengthening my competitiveness for independent group leader positions.