UK: PhD Studentship in Genetic Management of the European Lobster at University of Exeter

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Studentships will be awarded on the basis of merit and will commence in September 2014. For eligible students the award will cover UK/EU tuition fees and an annual stipend (in 2013/14 this was £13,726 for full-time students, pro rata for part-time students) for three and a half years.


Dr Amber Teacher, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, Environment and Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter
Dr Kirsten Abernethy, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, Environment and Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter
Dr Dave Hodgson, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, Centre for Ecology and Conservation, University of Exeter
Dr Neil Auchterlonie, Centre for Environment Fisheries and Aquaculture Science

Project description:  The biologically informed management of fish stocks is critical to ensure ecological and economic sustainability. Recently there have been calls to improve stock assessment advice through the use of genetic data. Studies in major marine fish stocks (Atlantic herring and cod) have revealed unforeseen levels of population genetic structuring and local adaptation relating to temperature and salinity gradients, and to patterns of ocean currents1. Subsequently, the management of these stocks (currently based primarily on geopolitical boundaries) must be adjusted to avoid overharvesting locally adapted fish. However, management change may constitute a shock or disturbance in the existing social-ecological system, and have implications for the structure and behaviour of fishing fleets, existing institutions, and resilience of fishing-dependent communities2. As such, incorporating genetic findings into management policies poses significant challenges.

The European lobster (Homarus gammarus) offers an exciting opportunity to investigate cryptic population genetic structuring and the incorporation of this information into stock management. To date, there has been no comprehensive study of local adaptation and genetic-management of shellfish or crustacean fisheries. The European lobster is a commercially important species throughout Europe, playing a vital role in the maintenance of coastal fishing communities. Management of lobster stocks varies between countries, however shellfish/crustacean management is typically performed through permit schemes and self-regulation within fishing communities. Increasingly, regulated fisheries are being suggested, yet with little information on stock structuring, biologically-informed regulation is not possible. In addition, hatcheries perform stocking of lobsters, and though widely supported by stakeholders, little is known of their success, or the risks to the fishery of disruption of local adaptation in wild populations.

This studentship provides the timely opportunity to test the hypothesis that multiple genetic stocks of the European lobster exist (using RAD tags/denovo RNAseq), and establish whether these stocks represent adaptation to environmental heterogeneity (e.g. to the latitudinal temperature cline). The studentship will review current management practices throughout Europe, assess the implications of genetic-management on the relatively stable institutions and structure of the fishery. This project will provide opportunities to influence future management policy and contribute to global debates in fisheries management. The student will have direct links to policy advisors (Cefas) and stakeholders (National Lobster Hatchery, fishing communities). Established collaborations with Prof. Per Jonsson (Oceanographic modeller, University of Gothenburg) and Prof. Carl André (Marine ecologist, University of Gothenburg) add to the interdisciplinary nature of this project, and ensure that the findings are placed in an international context.

The closing date for applications is midnight Friday 10 January 2014. Interviews are expected to take place in February.

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