Department of Life Sciences
Edward Llwyd Building
My current research, funded by a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship, focuses on the causes and consequences of cognitive differences among populations, using the pond snail, Lymnaea stagnalis, as a model species. I am also interested in cognitive syndromes, whether the ability to perceive, learn and remember aspects of the environment differs in a consistent manner among individuals. I use all life stages in my work, from embryos to adults, and future work will include following individuals throughout their lifetime to determine factors influencing plasticity and fitness. Antipredator behaviour: I have worked on antipredator behaviour in a range of freshwater and marine invertebrates. I am particularly interested in the different cues and modes of perception different species use in determining predation threat. This work also links in with my interests in learning and memory, in determining how experience alters predator perception. Ecotoxicology: The non-lethal effect of environmental pollutants is a growing area of interest in aquatic research. I have recently supervised student projects assessing the effects of metal and pharmaceutical pollutants on development and behaviour of aquatic organisms (freshwater and marine). I am also currently developing ways to assess the physiological and behavioural impact of microplastics on freshwater invertebrates.
I started with a PhD in behavioural ecology at the University of Plymouth assessing antipredator behaviour in the pond snail, Lymnaea stagnalis. Sticking with snails, I then moved over to Canada in 2008 and worked in a neurobiology laboratory at the University of Calgary funded by a postdoctoral fellowship from Alberta Innovates - Health Solutions. Most of the work I did in Calgary was on stress and memory, with particular focus on how different forms of stress can interact to affect memory formation (http://theconversation.com/forgetful-snails-could-tell-us-about-how-our-memories-work-20935). Did you know chocolate can improve memories?.....In snails at least! (http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/running-ponies/2012/09/30/how-to-improve-snail-memories-with-chocolate/). In 2012 I moved back to the U.K. as a research fellow at the University of Exeter, funded by a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship, which I have retained on joining IBERS in January 2014. My current research work leads on from my experience in Canada but focussing on more ecological questions, particularly what drives differences in memory among individuals and natural populations.