The European eel (Anguilla anguilla) has experienced drastic declines in population since the mid twentieth century, with current estimates suggesting that populations have declined by 90% since the 1970s. There are multiple factors behind this decline including barriers to migration, parasites and disease, climate change, unsustainable exploitation and pollution. Increased pollution levels in marine and freshwater ecosystems can have significant negative impacts on anguillid eels, which are particularly vulnerable to contamination due to their high trophic level and reliance on lipids as a fuel for migration. Although several pollutants have been identified in European eel, the full impact of aquatic pollutants on life history traits, such as fecundity, migration, and mortality, of eel populations is unknown and poses an important avenue for research to aid management and conservation of this species.
This project will determine emerging and legacy pollutant burdens in European eels to assess the current threat and inform future conservation actions (e.g., translocation). Pollutant burdens will be compared across different habitats (e.g., reservoirs and rivers) to assess ecological impacts and habitat suitability. In addition, biological effects will be assessed through bioassays and advanced ‘omics analyses including metabolomics and transcriptomics.
The student will have the opportunities to drive the direction of the project (e.g., by focussing on the analyses of different pollutants in different environmental matrices or by developing novel methods to assess biological impacts). Training in analytical chemistry, ‘omics analyses, in-vitro¬ laboratory skills and ecological modelling will be provided.