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Behavioural and population genetics (BPOP)

Donald Blomqvist (researcher) and Angela Pauliny (researcher)

Interested Bachelor and Master Students are welcome to enquire about available projects!

Previous and current collaborations include scientists in Austria, Australia, Brazil, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Norway, Sweden and USA. For more details, please see our list of publications. 

In general, we are interested in the interfaces between behaviour, genetics, life-history evolution and population dynamics. Our research questions address topics such as mate choice, ageing processes and population viability. To answer these questions, our tool-box contains behavioural observations, experiments (in the field or in the lab), molecular genetic techniques, comparative methods, and modelling. Current projects include:

Dynamics, genetics and survival of small populations

We are investigating how genetics (inbreeding and loss of genetic diversity) and other factors (e.g. habitat   fragmentation and predation) influence the persistence of small populations. Our model species is an endangered shorebird, the southern dunlin Calidris alpina schinzii, for which we have collected individual-based data on reproduction and survival during a long-term study. This extensive data set also allows us to empirically test predictions from statistical and mathematical models, which we are formulating as a collaboration within the Centre for Theoretical Biology, University of Gothenburg

Conservation biology without borders: International strategies for preserving the southern dunlin around the Baltic Sea

The total population size of the southern dunlin in the Baltic Sea area (including Denmark) has decreased by about 60% since 2000. In Sweden, only 105 breeding pairs remain in a few isolated areas in the Southern part of the country, and this subspecies has now been classified as Critically Endangered on the Swedish Red List. In close collaboration with conservation authorities in Sweden, as well as national and international researchers from Skåne, Öland, Finland, Estonia and Denmark, we are currently discussing optimal strategies to halt the rapid declines of these populations. Through an extensive metapopulation study, we hope to be able to gain insights into the effects of inbreeding and dispersal on the persistence of each local population as well as the Baltic population as a whole. In addition, we are investigating the possibilities to experimentally increase the gene flow across populations (genetic rescue).

Large-scale environmental changes and their effects on population development of shorebirds

Habitat losses caused by changes in agricultural land-use have negatively affected many plants and animals. Shorebirds breeding on wet grasslands have particularly suffered from these changes. Even if factors such as predation or genetics affect some populations, the continuing, rapid decline of a whole community of species remains unexplained. In this project, we are examining whether the widespread decline of shorebirds is caused by on-going, large-scale changes in the environment, negatively affecting the reproductive success of many species. The project builds on a comparison with a unique reference material collected 10-30 years ago, encompassing behavioural, ecological and genetic data from several shorebird species and breeding sites in southern Sweden.

Telomeres as indicators of stress, ageing processes and individual quality

Telomeres function as protective caps and stabilize the ends of all eukaryotic chromosomes, from plants to humans. In 2009, the Nobel price in Medicine and Physiology was awarded for the discovery of telomeres and the enzyme telomerase, and there is currently an explosion of telomere research in relation to senescence, disease and stress. We have recently provided the first evidence that a relative measure of telomere length (i.e. telomere length corrected for age) predicts fitness and can be used as a novel molecular marker for individual quality in two bird species. We are now testing this genetic marker also in other taxa (reptiles and fish).

Mate choice, mating systems and parental care

What determines the quality of a potential mate? When does it pay to have more than one partner? Are two parents always better than one? If one parent is sufficient, which sex will desert the brood? Shorebirds show extremely diverse breeding systems, including a varying number of mates and different forms of parental care. We are investigating the reasons for this variation, using behavioural observations and molecular genetic techniques. 




Page Manager: Sven Toresson|Last update: 2/19/2018

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