Academic Year 2021-2022
Institution University of Aberdeen


School: School of Biological Sciences

Project: The role of transposable elements in driving evolution and adaptation in the deep sea

Supervisors: Professor Stuart Piertney & Dr Sarah Helyar

Undergraduate Education: Master of Biological Science, University of Sheffield

Postgraduate Education: N/A

Research: Following a colonisation event, invasion populations are typically small. Theoretically, this should lead to a bottleneck event where the invasion population experiences deleterious effects. For example, there should be an increased chance of inbreeding, genetic homogeneity, and increased sensitivity to genetic drift. However, many invasive populations do not succumb to these issues. This is termed the ‘genetic paradox of invasion’ and is still not fully understood despite decades of research.

My research will investigate a possible method of evolutionary innovation to overcome the genetic paradox of invasion. I will investigate whether transposable elements were part of the ‘genetic toolbox’ which generated the adaptive radiation of amphipods in the deep sea.

My PhD will study deep sea amphipods and will:

  • Compare the activity and abundance of transposable elements in deep sea and shallow sea amphipods.
  • Examine transposable element evolutionary history.
  • Link transposable element activity to genes that affect the fitness.
  • Examine the capacity of DNA CpG methylation to affect transposable element activity.