Students – ACCE 2 – Cohort 1

Katherine Assersohn

University of Sheffield

Lead Supervisor: Dr Nicola Hemmings

Project Title: The genetic basis of female fertility

Research Interests: I’m interested in the causes and maintenance of variation in fertility traits in birds. During my PhD I’ll be using bird species commonly used as models for the study of reproduction, such as the zebra finch and the domestic chicken, to investigate the genetic and physiological basis of infertility in females.

Twitter: @kassersohn

Lab group website:

Recent publication:

Lauren Aylward  

University of Liverpool

Lead Supervisor: Prof Andrew Hirst

Project Title: Changes in metabolic energy use with body sizes within pelagic invertebrate species: new insights from jellyfish

Research Interests: I am interested in using the unique bodies of jellyfish to better understand the applicability and use of models of metabolism in relation to body mass and surface area. This topic is hotly debated; something as fundamental as how metabolism relates to body size has still not come to a consensus, I aim to use my gelatinous model organisms to add to the conversation and get one step closer to understanding one of the fundamental traits in physiology and ecology.

Project page:

Elaine Azzopardi

University of York

Lead Supervisor: Dr Jasper Kenter

Project Title: Understanding the multiple roles of culture in valuing ecosystems and their services

Chloë Bartlet

University of York

Lead Supervisor: Prof Kirsty Penkman

Project Title: Resolving the timescale of south-central African palaeoenvironments and their impact on human behaviour and evolution

Research Interests: My research interest is in the field of biomolecular archaeology and palaeoproteins in particular. I study the degradation mechanisms of proteins, including the racemisation of amino acids, trapped within fossil biominerals (such as mollusc shell and tooth enamel). My primary aim is to elucidate timeframes for palaeoenvironmental change and the archaeology of the South-Central African region over the last million years.

Twitter: @chloe_bartlet

NEaar laboratory Twitter: @NEaar_lab


Georgia Beel

University of York

Lead Supervisor: Dr Nicholas Cowan

Projet Title: Emission of greenhouse gases and volatile organic compounds from environmental plastic degradation

Hattie Brunning

University of York

Lead Supervisor: Prof Alistair Boxall

Project Title: Environmental exposure to polymers and their transformation products in a changing world

Alice Clark

University of Liverpool

Lead Supervisor: Prof Paula Stockley

Project Title: Reproductive suppression in mammals: social mediators and implications for conservation

Research Interests: My PhD is focussed on how social relationships between females influence their reproductive success, particularly how reproductive suppression within dominance hierarchies can affect the breeding success of endangered species in captivity. For this project I am partnering with Chester Zoo and will be collaborating with other zoos within EAZA. My research interests are in behavioural ecology, reproductive physiology and endangered species management.

You can follow me on twitter and Instagram for science communication posts and project updates at @AliceZoologist

Matthew Dempsey

University of Liverpool

Lead Supervisor: Dr Karl Bates

Project Title: Form, function & macroevolution in dinosaurs

Georgina Halford

University of Liverpool

Lead Supervisor: Dr Jenny Hodgson

Project Title: Smarter habitat restoration in harmony with species reintroductions – testing solutions for the Chequered Skipper

Research Interests: My research focusses on the reintroduction of the Chequered Skipper butterfly into parts of England, trialling novel methods of predicting habitat suitability in order to inform the reintroduction process.

Chay Halliwell

University of Sheffield

Lead Supervisor: Prof Ben Hatchwell

Project Title: Cooperation, conflict and the coordination of care in a social bird

Jordan Holmes  

University of York

Lead Supervisor: Dr Kelly Redeker

Research Interests: I research the impacts of different grasses, herbs and legumes on the carbon fractions in temporary grassland leys in agricultural rotation, focusing on the depths and timescales over which the changes take place. This will allow a better targeting of species for carbon storage in agricultural soils.

Simon Hunter-Barnett

University of Liverpool

Lead Supervisor: How is the Gut Microbiome Community Assembled in Wild Rodents?

Project Title: Prof Mark Viney

Matthew Kelbrick

University of Liverpool

Lead Supervisor: Dr Siobhan O’Brien

Project Title: The role of interspecific interactions in shaping adaptive evolution in soil microbial communities.

Sophie Lyth

University of Liverpool

Lead Supervisor: Dr Thomas Price

Project Title: The ecology of sex-ratio distorting meiotic driver

Research Interests: My research focuses on the dynamics of a naturally occurring X chromosome meiotic drive system in Drosophila subobscura. Some X chromosomes cheat during spermatogenesis, killing all the Y chromosome bearing sperm. This allows the X to get into all functional sperm, and be inherited by all offspring, allowing it to spread rapidly through populations, potentially driving local extinctions by turning the entire population female. However, many natural drive systems do not spread, and seem to be found at stable frequencies, and we don’t know why. I am interested in the ecological factors that may prevent these drive systems from spreading.

Fionnuala McCully

University of Liverpool

Lead Supervisor: Dr Sam Patrick

Project Title: How do Arctic seabirds coordinate parental care in a changing climate?

Tien Thuy Thi Nguyen

University of Sheffield

Lead Supervisor: Dr Nicola Nadeau

Project Title: Understanding temperature adaptation in tropical Andean butterflies

Jacob Podesta  

University of York

Lead Supervisor: Dr Elva Robinson

Project Title: Are wood ants ecosystem engineers? Assessing impacts during range expansion

Research Interests: I am interested in the interactions between ants and their ecosystem. By studying soil nutrients, invertebrates and the microbiome, I hope to illuminate the way that the northern hairy wood ant, Formica lugubris, affects its habitat and discover the scale and mechanisms of their effects on the ecosystem beyond their nest.

Louie Rombaut

University of Sheffield

Lead Supervisor: Dr Gavin Thomas

Project Title: Understanding the diversity of life: trait correlations from micro- to macroevolutionary scales

Mark Sutherland

University of Sheffield

Lead Supervisor: Prof Jon Slate

Project Title: Selection and evolution of coat colour in a wild mammal

Research Interests: I am interested in how genetic and phenotypic variation in wild populations changes in response to environmental conditions. In particular, I am interested in how colour polymorphisms arise and are maintained. My PhD will utilise the long-term data gathered as part of the St Kilda Soay Sheep Project to further understanding of how a light/dark coat colour polymorphism is maintained in the population and how allelic variation has changed in response to a changing environment. Further to this, I will investigate if quantifying coat pigmentation can enhance our understanding of genomic and environmental components of colour variation.

Kim van de Wiel  

University of Liverpool

Lead Supervisor: Dr. Jakob Bro-Jorgensen

Project Title: The impact of livestock on parasite transmission in communities of African savanna herbivores.

Research Interests: I am a veterinarian pursuing a PhD in Biological Sciences. I am particularly passionate about conservation ecology, infectious diseases, and One Health. With my PhD research, I will seek to understand and model gastro-intestinal nematode transmission at a wildlife-livestock interface. My fieldwork (in collaboration with Kenya Wildlife Service) will focus on the Maasai Mara ecosystem in Southern Kenya, where livestock-wildlife interactions are of increasing concern.

Jasmine Roha Wakefield

University of Sheffield

Lead Supervisor: Prof Gareth Phoenix

Project Title: Arctic carbon under threat from climate extremes: Impacts of extreme climatic events on soil carbon and microbial communities

Grace Ella Wardell

University of Sheffield

Lead Supervisor: Dr Ellie Harrison

Project Title: Exploring the ecological and evolutionary impacts of introducing exotic agricultural inoculants to the soil microbiome

Research Interests: Using beneficial plant-associated microbes to boost crop yields and soil health poses as a sustainable alternative to the large additions of chemical fertilisers in agriculture. Rhizobia are a group of soil bacteria that enter into a symbiotic relationship with legumes, where they fix atmospheric nitrogen into a plant available form, and in return, receive photosynthates. Introduction of exotic rhizobia with non-native crops may have impacts on the soil microbiome, in evolutionary terms, via gene exchange and ecological terms, via competition. My research aims to investigate these impacts. My project is collaborating with The James Hutton Institute and Plantworks UK Ltd.

Research group lab –

Flora Whiting-Fawcett

University of Liverpool

Lead Supervisor: Prof Steve Paterson

Project Title: Conservation genetics and infectious disease in Brandt’s bats.

Research Interests: I am working on my PhD: Conservation Genetics and Infection Disease in the Brandt’s Bats. I use bioinformatics to search for positive selection towards disease tolerance, comparing bat genomes of species that are either tolerant or susceptible to white-nose disease. I am also interested in the phylogenetic history of the Brandt’s bat, and will explore this alongside their clade sister, Myotis gracilis.

Joris Wiethase

Lead Supervisor: Dr Colin Beale

Project Title: Identifying the mechanisms linking savannah degradation and bird distribution change

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