Current Research Overview

Current research at SCENE reflects the strengths of the University of Glasgow's Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health & Comparative Medicine,with its focus on evolutionary biology, eco-physiology (animal health), disease ecology, and environmental change. These areas of fundamental research are complemented by applied, environmentally-oriented projects, of both international significance and local, Scottish impact. This research is supported by a wide range of funding organizations, including the UK research councils, European Union, and various other funders from the UK and abroad.

Taking advantage of the biodiversity on site, research at SCENE involves various organisms (vertebrates, invertebrates, plants), as well as environmental processes like carbon flux. These activities take place in the wide range of ecosystems that surround SCENE. For example, fish and aquatic invertebrates are studied on Loch Lomond, research on woodland birds makes use of 500 nest boxes that are situated in the surrounding oak woodland, studies of disease ecology take place on various islands in Loch Lomond, and lake dynamics are investigated by a monitoring buoy. The studies are complemented by experimental work using SCENE’s laboratory assets, including artificial streams, aquaria and experimental plant-growing plots.

CURRENT RESEARCH LIST

Evolutionary biology

Institute academics Barbara Mable and James Buckley are using Arabidopsis lyrata (a member of the Brassicaceae plant family) to study the effects of variation in plant mating systems (i.e. inbreeding vs outcrossing) and ploidy level (i.e. diploid vs tetraploid) on survival and reproduction in changing environments. This includes changes in both the abiotic (e.g. temperature) and the biotic (e.g. changes in pathogen pressures) environments. To test the response of these plants to novel environmental conditions here in Scotland, A. lyrata plants collected from a wide range of geographic locations across North America and Europe are being grown in an experimental plot at SCENE. Samples collected from this common garden experiment will also be used to understand the physiological responses of these plants (i.e. variation in their ‘metabolome’) to novel environments. The researchers are also interested in the evolution of disease resistance across the geographic range of A.lyrata and specifically resistance to important pathogens of the Brassicaceae family (which includes crops such as cabbage, broccoli and rapeseed).

O HookerGlasgow faculty Colin Adams, Felicity Huntingford, Kathryn Elmer and Kevin Parsons and their groups are studying the evolutionary processes that have led to high levels of diversity within species in recently glaciated freshwater systems. Colin Adams’ work also involves a suite of international collaborations, for example with Rune Knudsen (Norway). Several species of fish, notably whitefish, Arctic charr and lamprey, show a remarkable diversity of phenotypes within the species. In many places they exhibit multiple morphs that differ in morphology, behaviour and ecology but live in the same lake. The evolutionary process and its genetic and developmental underpinnings that have promoted this rapid diversification are poorly understood but are fundamental to our understanding of how new species arise. Felicity Huntingford and Colin Adams are particularly interested in the mechanisms at the intersection between behaviour and physiology that drive evolutionary change in several aquatic species. Kathryn Elmer’s group investigates the genetic basis of adaptive phenotypes in wild populations. They use genome-wide analyses combined with insights from ecology to uncover the evolutionary origins of the breadth of biodiversity we see in nature. Elmer’s study systems of focus are salmonid fishes, reptiles and amphibians, because these groups hold great promise for understanding rapid diversification and local adaptation to environmental change.

 Luc Bussier and his group from Stirling University study insects (Dance flies, Diptera: Empididae) with an interest in evolutionary consequences of  sexual dimorphism. As part of these flies’ diverse mating system, many species transfer nutritious nuptial gifts, for which females may compete. In some species females have evolved extravagant ornaments associated with competition for gift-providing males.

 

 

Eco-physiology (animal health)

Institute researcher Neil Metcalfe has just been awarded a prestigious 5 year European Research Council Advanced Grant of £1.8M, to study ‘The Ecology of Metabolic Phenotypes’. The project will examine both why individual animals vary in their metabolic rate, and what the consequences are for their survival and reproductive success. The experimental work will focus on two species of freshwater fish (the brown trout Salmo trutta and the three-spined stickleback Gasterosteus aculeatus, and will in part take place at SCENE, using custom-made experimental facilities including mesocosm ponds with temperature regulation. Further studies of ecophysiology and health of fish take place under the umbrella of IBIS. Travis van Leeuwen is investigating migration strategies of Brown trout (Salmo trutta) in relation to genetic background, metabolic traits and food availability.

Thermal ImageEco-physiological studies are also carried out on birds. In studies of Blue tits (Cyanistes caeruleus) Shona Smith and Glasgow academic Ruedi Nager investigate whether oxidative stress functions as a link between environmental quality and fitness. Also with an interest in stress, Paul Jerem, Susanne van Donk and Ruedi Nager apply thermal imaging to test whether changes in body temperature can be used to assess avian responses to environmental stressors. This research is in collaboration with Dominic McCafferty, ‌who is interested in the way in which animals are adapted to their thermal environment. His research uses the latest thermal imaging technology to measure the metabolic and temperature responses of individuals to climate.

Staff member Barbara Helm investigates the biological clocks that tick in virtually all living organisms and aid them in keeping track of time. Together with other avian researchers at SCENE, she studies birds at SCENE to better understand how these clocks influence life in the wild, and how they contribute to fitness and reproduction. At SCENE the group keeps track of phenology of woodland birds and use telemetry to monitor daily cycles. Paul Jerem has just completed a project on activity and body temperature cycles of free-living Great tits (Parus major) during winter. 

 

 

Disease ecology

Roman Biek, faculty of the institute, and his group are studying the ecology of Lyme disease in Scotland. Their research aims to understand how changes to species communities alters the chances of people being exposed to this tick-borne pathogen. For this research, the group takes advantage of the many islands in Loch Lomond, where they collect ticks and monitor infection. Most of the islands support populations of small mammals dominated by wood mice (Apodemus sylvaticus) and bank voles (Myodes glareolus). For both species, the island populations are isolated from each other providing useful replicated model species supporting research on population dynamics and parasite and virus transmission.

Ecology and environmental change

 Ross MacLeod, fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, studies the ways individuals respond to environmental pressures and changing environments. He is particularly interested in trade-offs between the opposing pressures of predators on the one hand, and food supply on the other. In his studies of woodland birds (Blue tits, great Tits, Coal tits and chaffinches), he uses automated weighing platforms in the oak woodlands around SCENE to track weight changes in common birds with the goal of using ecological theory to better understand how natural habitats are responding to environmental change. The results are being used to develop new, more rapid and more cost effective approaches to environmental monitoring that will be able to act as early warning systems of future environmental problems.

‌Glasgow faculty Susan Waldron’s and Leena Vihermaa’s research is part of the NERC-funded United Kingdom Lake Ecological Observatory Network (UKLEON). Using a monitoring buoy with state-of-the-art sensor technology, they collect high frequency meteorology and water chemistry time series for Loch Lomond. Establishment of the technology aims at overcoming the limitations to detailed time series of environmental data that were due to sampling frequency. Their research addresses both seasonal and short term controls of carbon dynamics in lake systems and will yield key information for climate modelling.

Several projects under the IBIS umbrella address ecology and environmental change in birds and fish. For example, coastal marine environments are some of the most diverse and productive habitats. Despite their importance to both biodiversity and humans, pressure on marine ecosystems is increasing disconcertingly. To monitor marine environments, seabird populations are frequently censused, but detecting even small significant changes in population trends can be very difficult. Nina O’Hanlon’s project uses seabirds as proxies of shallow coastal habitat health. It investigates the spatial variation of seabird parameters, including foraging behaviour, nest attendance and diet to detect change and adverse conditions over shorter time frames, enabling more immediate management and conservation actions.

Environmentally sustainable development

The currently most extensive umbrella for research activities is the INTERREG IVa-financed project IBIS  (Integrated Aquatic Resources Management between Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland). At SCENE, this project currently employs 13 post-graduate students. Most of the projects within IBIS focus on conservation and management of fish species under anthropogenic pressure.

Current Research at SCENE

Click on the Project Title for more information about the project. 

NameProject TitleSupervisor(s)      Funder
J Barry The population dynamics and migration of the European eel Prof. Adams INTERREG IVA
R Brackley Impact of small scale hydropower schemes on freshwater communities

Dr Bean
Dr Thomas                 

INTERREG IVA
J Buckley Role of plant mating systems and ploidy on tolerating or adapting to environmental change

 

 
J Clarke  Effects of marine protected areas on animal populations

Dr Bailey 
Dr Wright

INTERREG IVA
Dr K Elmer Adaptation Genomics of Trophic Polymorphism    
Dr B Helm The early bird catches the worm? Daily activity and biological clocks in birds  N/A  Elite Grant, Germany
O Hooker Ecology underpinning conservation management of rare freshwater fish Prof. Adams INTERREG IVA
J Hume  The ecology of Scottish Lamprey Prof. Adams 
Dr Mable
 
Dr R MacLeod Can we predict impacts of environmental change on biodiversity from knowledge of behavioural decisions? N/A

Royal Society of Edinburgh Scottish Government Research Fellowship

Dr B Mable

Role of plant mating systems and ploidy on tolerating or adapting to environmental change

 

 
Prof N Metcalfe

The ecology of metabolic phenotypes: from cells to populations

N/A

European Research Council (ERC) Advanced Grant
C Millins Vertebrate Host Communities and the Risk of Lyme Disease in Scotland

Dr Biek
Dr Gilbert

BBSRC Doctoral Training Grant
M Newton The effect of in-stream barriers on the river migration of Atlantic salmon Prof. Adams INTERREG IVA
N O'Hanlon  Seabirds as monitors of the intertidal habitat Dr R Nager INTERREG IVA
S Smith Oxidative stress as link between environmental quality and fitness in wild birds Dr Costantini
Prof. Metcalfe
Dr Nager
 
T Van Leeuwen Investigating the life history strategies in the sea-trout Prof. Adams
Prof. Metcalfe
Dr P Boylan
INTERREG IVA

Prof S Waldron

Dr L Vihermaa

A United Kingdom Lake Ecological Observatory Network (UKLEON) N/A NERC

Current Research

Current research at SCENE reflects the strengths of the University of Glasgow's Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health & Comparative Medicine, with its focus on evolutionary biology, eco-physiology (animal health), disease ecology, and environmental change. These areas of fundamental research are complemented by applied, environmentally-oriented projects, of both international significance and local, Scottish impact. This research is supported by a wide range of funding organizations, including the UK research councils, European Union, and various other funders from the UK and abroad.

Taking advantage of the biodiversity on site, research at SCENE involves various organisms (vertebrates, invertebrates, plants), as well as environmental processes like carbon flux. These activities take place in the wide range of ecosystems that surround SCENE. For example, fish and aquatic invertebrates are studied on Loch Lomond, research on woodland birds makes use of 500 nest boxes that are situated in the surrounding oak woodland, studies of disease ecology take place on various islands in Loch Lomond, and lake dynamics are investigated by a monitoring buoy.

The studies are complemented by experimental work using SCENE’s laboratory assets, including artificial streams, aquaria and experimental plant-growing plots.

Current research by theme

Evolutionary biology

Evolutionary biology

Institute academics Barbara Mable and James Buckley are using Arabidopsis lyrata (a member of the Brassicaceae plant family) to study the effects of variation in plant mating systems (i.e. inbreeding vs outcrossing) and ploidy level (i.e. diploid vs tetraploid) on survival and reproduction in changing environments. This includes changes in both the abiotic (e.g. temperature) and the biotic (e.g. changes in pathogen pressures) environments. To test the response of these plants to novel environmental conditions here in Scotland, A. lyrata plants collected from a wide range of geographic locations across North America and Europe are being grown in an experimental plot at SCENE. Samples collected from this common garden experiment will also be used to understand the physiological responses of these plants (i.e. variation in their ‘metabolome’) to novel environments. The researchers are also interested in the evolution of disease resistance across the geographic range of A.lyrata and specifically resistance to important pathogens of the Brassicaceae family (which includes crops such as cabbage, broccoli and rapeseed).

O HookerGlasgow faculty Colin Adams, Felicity Huntingford, Kathryn Elmer and Kevin Parsons and their groups are studying the evolutionary processes that have led to high levels of diversity within species in recently glaciated freshwater systems. Colin Adams’ work also involves a suite of international collaborations, for example with Rune Knudsen (Norway). Several species of fish, notably whitefish, Arctic charr and lamprey, show a remarkable diversity of phenotypes within the species. In many places they exhibit multiple morphs that differ in morphology, behaviour and ecology but live in the same lake. The evolutionary process and its genetic and developmental underpinnings that have promoted this rapid diversification are poorly understood but are fundamental to our understanding of how new species arise. Felicity Huntingford and Colin Adams are particularly interested in the mechanisms at the intersection between behaviour and physiology that drive evolutionary change in several aquatic species. Kathryn Elmer’s group investigates the genetic basis of adaptive phenotypes in wild populations. They use genome-wide analyses combined with insights from ecology to uncover the evolutionary origins of the breadth of biodiversity we see in nature. Elmer’s study systems of focus are salmonid fishes, reptiles and amphibians, because these groups hold great promise for understanding rapid diversification and local adaptation to environmental change.

Luc Bussier and his group from Stirling University study insects (Dance flies, Diptera: Empididae) with an interest in evolutionary consequences of  sexual dimorphism. As part of these flies’ diverse mating system, many species transfer nutritious nuptial gifts, for which females may compete. In some species females have evolved extravagant ornaments associated with competition for gift-providing males.


Eco-physiology (animal health)

Eco-physiology (animal health)

Institute researcher Neil Metcalfe has just been awarded a prestigious 5 year European Research Council Advanced Grant of £1.8M, to study ‘The Ecology of Metabolic Phenotypes’. The project will examine both why individual animals vary in their metabolic rate, and what the consequences are for their survival and reproductive success. The experimental work will focus on two species of freshwater fish (the brown trout Salmo trutta and the three-spined stickleback Gasterosteus aculeatus, and will in part take place at SCENE, using custom-made experimental facilities including mesocosm ponds with temperature regulation. Further studies of ecophysiology and health of fish take place under the umbrella of IBIS. Travis van Leeuwen is investigating migration strategies of Brown trout (Salmo trutta) in relation to genetic background, metabolic traits and food availability.

Thermal ImageEco-physiological studies are also carried out on birds. In studies of Blue tits (Cyanistes caeruleus) Shona Smith and Glasgow academic Ruedi Nager investigate whether oxidative stress functions as a link between environmental quality and fitness. Also with an interest in stress, Paul Jerem, Susanne van Donk and Ruedi Nager apply thermal imaging to test whether changes in body temperature can be used to assess avian responses to environmental stressors. This research is in collaboration with Dominic McCafferty, ‌who is interested in the way in which animals are adapted to their thermal environment. His research uses the latest thermal imaging technology to measure the metabolic and temperature responses of individuals to climate.

Staff member Barbara Helm investigates the biological clocks that tick in virtually all living organisms and aid them in keeping track of time. Together with other avian researchers at SCENE, she studies birds at SCENE to better understand how these clocks influence life in the wild, and how they contribute to fitness and reproduction. At SCENE the group keeps track of phenology of woodland birds and use telemetry to monitor daily cycles. Paul Jerem has just completed a project on activity and body temperature cycles of free-living Great tits (Parus major) during winter.


Disease ecology

Disease ecology

Roman Biek, faculty of the institute, and his group are studying the ecology of Lyme disease in Scotland. Their research aims to understand how changes to species communities alters the chances of people being exposed to this tick-borne pathogen. For this research, the group takes advantage of the many islands in Loch Lomond, where they collect ticks and monitor infection. Most of the islands support populations of small mammals dominated by wood mice (Apodemus sylvaticus) and bank voles (Myodes glareolus). For both species, the island populations are isolated from each other providing useful replicated model species supporting research on population dynamics and parasite and virus transmission.


´╗┐Ecology and environmental change

Ecology and environmental change

Ross MacLeod, fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, studies the ways individuals respond to environmental pressures and changing environments. He is particularly interested in trade-offs between the opposing pressures of predators on the one hand, and food supply on the other. In his studies of woodland birds (Blue tits, great Tits, Coal tits and chaffinches), he uses automated weighing platforms in the oak woodlands around SCENE to track weight changes in common birds with the goal of using ecological theory to better understand how natural habitats are responding to environmental change. The results are being used to develop new, more rapid and more cost effective approaches to environmental monitoring that will be able to act as early warning systems of future environmental problems.

‌Glasgow faculty Susan Waldron’s and Leena Vihermaa’s research is part of the NERC-funded United Kingdom Lake Ecological Observatory Network (UKLEON). Using a monitoring buoy with state-of-the-art sensor technology, they collect high frequency meteorology and water chemistry time series for Loch Lomond. Establishment of the technology aims at overcoming the limitations to detailed time series of environmental data that were due to sampling frequency. Their research addresses both seasonal and short term controls of carbon dynamics in lake systems and will yield key information for climate modelling.

Monitoring buoy

Several projects under the IBIS umbrella address ecology and environmental change in birds and fish. For example, coastal marine environments are some of the most diverse and productive habitats. Despite their importance to both biodiversity and humans, pressure on marine ecosystems is increasing disconcertingly. To monitor marine environments, seabird populations are frequently censused, but detecting even small significant changes in population trends can be very difficult. Nina O’Hanlon’s project uses seabirds as proxies of shallow coastal habitat health. It investigates the spatial variation of seabird parameters, including foraging behavior, nest attendance and diet to detect change and adverse conditions over shorter time frames, enabling more immediate management and conservation actions.


Environmentally sustainable development

Environmentally sustainable development

The currently most extensive umbrella for research activities is the INTERREG IVa-financed project IBIS (Interated Aquatic Resources Management between Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland). At SCENE, this project currently employs 13 post-graduate students. Most of the projects within IBIS focus on conservation and management of fish species under anthropogenic pressure.


List of current reseach projects at SCENE

Click on the project title for more information about each.

NameProject titleSupervisor(s)     Funder
J Barry The population dynamics and migration of the European eel Prof. Adams INTERREG IVA
R Brackley Impact of small scale hydropower schemes on freshwater commumities

Dr Bean, Dr Thomas                

 
Dr J Buckley

Role of plant mating systems and ploidy Role of plant mating systems and ploidy Role of plant mating systems and ploidy Role of plant mating systems and ploidy on tolerating or adapting to environmental change

Omics of adaptation to changing/novel environments in plants

Prof B Mable

NERC

Wellcome Trust Institutional Strategic Support Fund

J Clarke Effects of marine protected areas on animal populations

Dr Bailey, Dr Wright

INTERREG IVA
Dr K Elmer

Adaptation Genomics of Trophic PolymorphismAdaptation Genomics of Trophic PolymorphismAdaptation Genomics of Trophic PolymorphismAdaptation Genomics of Trophic PolymorphismAdaptation Genomics of Trophic PolymorphismAdaptation Genomics of Trophic PolymorphismAdaptation Genomics of Trophic Polymorphism

The role of gene expression in phenotypic plasticity and adaptive divergence

N/A

European Commission

Wellcome Trust Institutional Strategic Support Fund 

Dr B Helm The early bird catches the worm? Daily activity and biological clocks in birds N/A Elite Grant, Germany
O Hooker Ecology underpinning conservation management of rare freshwater fish Prof. Adams INTERREG IVA
J Hume The ecology of Scottish Lamprey Prof. Adams, Dr Mable  
Dr R MacLeod Can we predict impacts of environmental change on biodiversity from knowledge of behavioural decisions? N/A

Royal Society of Edinburgh Scottish Government Research Fellowship

Prof B Mable

Role of plant mating systems and ploidy Role of plant mating systems and ploidy Role of plant mating systems and ploidy Role of plant mating systems and ploidy Role of plant mating systems and ploidy Role of plant mating systems and ploidy on tolerating or adapting to environmental change

Omics of adaptation to changing/novel environments in plants

N/A

NERC

Wellcome Trust Institutional Strategic Support Fund

Prof N Metcalfe

The ecology of metabolic phenotypes: from cells to populations

N/A

European Research Council (ERC) Advanced Grant
C Millins Vertebrate Host Communities and the Risk of Lyme Disease in Scotland

Dr Biek, Dr Gilbert

BBSRC Doctoral Training Grant
M Newton The effect of in-stream barriers on the river migration of Atlantic salmon Prof. Adams INTERREG IVA
N O'Hanlon Seabirds as monitors of the intertidal habitat Dr R Nager INTERREG IVA
S Smith Oxidative stress as link between environmental quality and fitness in wild birds Dr Costantini, Prof. MetcalfeDr Nager  
T Van Leeuwen Investigating the life history strategies in the sea-trout Prof. Adams, Prof. Metcalfe Dr P Boylan INTERREG IVA

Prof S Waldron

Dr L Vihermaa

A United Kingdom Lake Ecological Observatory Network (UKLEON) N/A NERC