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The role of physiological traits in the vulnerability of fish to capture by commercial fishing methods

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  • Full or part time
    Dr S Killen
    Dr D Bailey
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Stipend: £14,000
Start date: September 2015

There is increasing evidence that intense commercial fishing pressure is not only depleting fish stocks but also causing evolutionary changes to fish populations (1-4). Current research on fisheries-induced evolution has focused almost exclusively on the effects of size-selective harvest on reproductive potential of wild populations (5-7), but there are a range of traits besides body size which could also affect the selectivity of fishing gears but which have not been investigated.

For example, overlooked within the context of fisheries induced evolution is the likelihood that, within a given species, variation in physiological traits among individuals – and especially those related to energy balance (e.g. metabolic rate) and swimming performance (e.g. aerobic scope) – could make some fish more catchable or more likely to suffer mortality after discard. Selection on these traits could produce major shifts in the fundamental structure and function of fish in response to fishing pressure that are yet to be considered but which could directly influence population resource requirements, resilience, geographic distributions, and responses to environmental change (8-9).

This studentship will combine innovative approaches in the laboratory with acoustic tracking technology in the field to address this gap in knowledge to examine whether physiological traits make some individuals more catchable by commercial fishing gears, and whether the environment modulates such effects.

Requirements: We are seeking a student with an outstanding BSc or equivalent degree in biology or related field. An interest in animal physiology, behaviour, spatial ecology, or fisheries science is essential. An MSc, an interest in environmental and conservation issues, and the ability to undertake fieldwork in remote locations are also desirable.

1) Heino, M., et al., ICES Journal of Marine Science, 2013. 70:707-721.
2) Uusi-Heikkilä, S., et al., Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 2008. 23:419-421.
3) Enberg, K., et al., Marine Ecology, 2012. 33:1-25.
4) Conover, D.O. and S.B. Munch, Science, 2002. 297:94-96.
5) Ernande, B., U. Dieckmann, and M. Heino, Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 2004. 271:415-423.
6) Jørgensen, C., B. Ernande, and Ø. Fiksen, Evolutionary Applications, 2009. 2:356-370.
7) Swain, D.P., et al., Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 2007. 274:1015-1022.
8) Pörtner, H.O. and A.P. Farrell, Science, 2008. 322:690-692.
9) Killen, S.S., et al., Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 2012. 279:357-364.

Funding Notes

Funding is for 3.5 years and covers fees and stipend. This studentship is part of a 5-year project funded by the European Research Council (ERC). Potential applicants are encouraged to contact Dr. Shaun Killen ([Email Address Removed]) prior to applying.


When applying please choose 'MVLS PhD' from the online application system and include the research title in the free text area.

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