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Sarah-Louise Counter

Research Interests

I have quite broad interests covering population genetics, conservation, aquatic and marine biology, life history traits and phenotype-genotype interactions. I particularly enjoy doing applied projects and interacting with other agencies, I think this is apparent through my previous research projects. During college I undertook a Nuffield project assessing the effects of enrichment on seal behaviour at Weymouth Sea life. On my placement year at the Centre for Population Biology, Imperial College, I studied ‘The effect of genetic diversity of population density and dynamics in the pea aphid (Acyrthosiphon pisum)’ a continuation of a previous student’s project, encompassing life history experiments and population dynamics, to demonstrate the importance of genetic diversity in small populations. I also undertook a small project on ‘Estuarine Ecology and the behavioural ecology of Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna L.) on the Severn Estuary’. This project included estuarine counts of all birds present as part of a continued annual survey in addition to a behaviour assessment of Shelduck. My dissertation was on ‘the effects of acid episodes on the behaviour of juvenile Atlantic Salmon (Salmo salar L.)’ This focused on the response of individual parr to acidification when a chemical refuge was present. I also enjoy birding.


Current Project

I am currently writing my PhD on ‘The sustainability of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar L.) in South West rivers’.   It is becoming increasingly important to take a holistic approach to conservation and to ensure collaboration between different agencies, stakeholders and scientists.  For my project I hope to use one catchment (the Exe) as an example of how stakeholders and scientists can better communicate and work together to understand the catchment they are trying to protect.   I am conducting a study assessing the population genetic structure on the Exe to identify (i) how many populations are present and (ii) whether there is differntial explotation of populations between anglers and netsman.  Additionally, I am exploring the effectiveness of the supportive breeding programme through genetic diversity, how well adult broodstock represent the tributaries to be stocked, and bias in offspring production.  The hatchery on the Tamar will also be assessed for comparison.  Ultimately this research is of little value if not communicated to stakeholders and anglers, so I am conducting a study looking at the views of anglers on; management practices, fisheries science and the state of salmon on the Exe.  Information from both the genetics and sociology will be disseminated to the stakeholders so they may make informed decisions about any changes that may or may not need to be made to current practices.

I will also be assessing temporal stability of Atlantic salmon across South West England to highlight trends in structure and population size, in order to identify areas in need of further study and management.

The University of Exeter, The Queen's Drive, Exeter, Devon, UK EX4 4QJ
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