Host-microbe interactions in wild vertebrate populations

Profile Display Name:

Adrienne Kerley

E-mail Address:

Start Year

2016 (Cohort 3)

Research interests:

Include but are not limited to: Marine Biology, Zoology, Coral Reefs, Food Web Ecology, Rocky Shore Ecology, Climate Change, Anthropogenic impacts, Lipid Extraction and Stable Isotopes.

Hobbies and interests:
PhD Project
PhD Title

Host-microbe interactions in wild vertebrate populations

Research Theme

Evolution and Adaptation

Primary Supervisor
Primary Institution


Secondary Supervisor
Secondary Institution



Microbes are ubiquitous, and are often found in close associations with a host, where they affect its physiology, immune functions and even behaviours. In my thesis, I explored host-microbe interactions in wild vertebrate species to disentangle the role of genetic and environmental determinisms of those interactions. In Chapter Two, together with my collaborators, I brought evidence for the evolution of local adaptation of three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) gut microbiomes through population-specific microbiomes, caused by localised environmental pressures and/or genetic determinism. In Chapter Three, I established the baseline relationship between parasites and stickleback diet, as both can impact host-microbe interactions. I confirmed that feeding ecology is not independent of host-parasite interactions and both parasite resistance and feeding ecology evolve under local adaptation. Chapter Four highlighted how the host’s microbiome is influenced by genotype-by-environment interactions, with changes in the microbiome correlating with interactions between host evolutionary lineage, local environment, and seasonal variation. Interestingly, microbial diversity decreased with increased parasite infections, suggesting intricate host-parasite-microbe interactions. Additionally, I found evidence that a host’s microbiome is linked to feeding ecology, but the direction of this relationship was context-dependent. Finally, in Chapter Five, I tested the generality of the conclusions obtained in the fish system by changing host species to the philopatric and locally-adapted loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) nesting at the Cabo Verde Archipelago. I found population-specific cloacal microbiomes among closely related nesting groups and as well as host-parasite-microbe interactions. Overall, this thesis focused on teasing apart the diverse determinisms of wild host-microbe interactions. It relied on a series of field experiments and sampling of wild individuals and ultimately shows how fundamental the role of the host microbiome is for species evolution.

Policy Impact
Background Reading


Conferences and Workshops
  • BES Ecology across borders. Poster
  • EMPSEB (May 2019). Talk
  • Dynamic Earth (September 2019). Talk
  • QMUL internal conference (January 2019). Talk
  • .
Social Links
University Departmental Website:

Personal Website:




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