Dr Jamie Stevens
The unifying theme of my research is molecular ecology. Within this subject area, two distinct strands of research are being undertaken: (i) fish population genetics, (ii) parasite systematics and evolution. See our research group (MEEG) web pages for further information.
Much of our current research focuses on the population genetics of salmon and trout in the rivers of England and Wales, for which we employ a range of population-level molecular techniques including: microsatellite, SNPs and mitochondrial DNA analysis. Current projects aim to evaluate the genetic diversity of trout across southern Britain to inform management practices aimed at conserving these fish in rivers under increasing anthropogenic and environmental pressures. This work is within the broader framework of a multi-partner European Union funded project: Atlantic Aquatic Resource Conservation (AARC). We also have ongoing projects focusing on temporal stability in Atlantic salmon and patterns of metal tolerance in trout. The findings of all studies have direct relevance to fish conservation and stock management across Britain and Europe, and benefit from substantial EU and Environment Agency funding. We are also grateful to the following for financial and logistical support: The Westcountry Rivers Trust, The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust and the Atlantic Salmon Trust.
We also contribute to a number of previous EU-funded multi-agency projects on salmonids, including the Atlantic Salmon Arc Project (ASAP, INTERREG IIIB projects 040 + 203) and SALSEA-Merge, an FP7 project, both of which have sought to develop a genetic baseline for salmon in their natal rivers, to facilitate identification and tracking of migrating salmon in the marine environment. These projects are trans-national and aimed to characterise genetic differences between salmon populations across western European, from Norway to northern Spain. This genetic information is now being used to address one of the remaining uncertainties in salmon ecology, namely at-sea mortality. The identification of distinct populations, and assignment of fish caught by marine fisheries to their river of origin will help identify levels of individual stock exploitation and facilitate improved management of this threatened species.
More recently, research within the group has expanded to undertake studies on genetic connectivity in marine invertebrates. In partnership with Prof Peter Mumby (University of Queensland/University of Exeter) and others, we have recently published an evaluation of patterns of connectivity in the dominant Caribbean reef-building coral, Montastrea annularis; this uses both empirical data and ocean current modelling. The work has been critical in demonstrating how, while marine connectivity (as measured by gene-flow) is correlated with distance, physical barriers, including oceanic currents and river outflows, can play key roles in shaping both macro and micro (local) patterns of marine connectivity. His group is a partner in the EU FP7 project, Future of Reefs in a Changing Environment (FORCE); Exeter is the lead partner in this project and the laboratory is participating in genetic connectivity analysis. The group has also been contracted by Natural England on a 4-year project to analyse marine connectivity in temperate marine octocoral species. The aim of this work is to provide genetic data on gene flow to supplement existing data on larval dispersal and oceanographic currents. Together these data will be used to inform decisions on the designation of candidate marine protected areas in UK waters.
Parasitological research within the group continues and includes projects on the evolution of trypanosomes, the causative agents of African Sleeping Sickness and Chagas disease, and other protozoa, and on a range of arthropod ectoparasites, including blowflies, screwworm flies and mites. This research has been supported by the NERC and the IAEA.
2008–2011: EU Framework 7 project: SALSEA-Merge – Biodiversity of Atlantic salmon using microsatellite markers and SNiPs: calibration of existing multi-institution data sets for mixed stock analysis of marine salmon fisheries samples and allocation to river of origin. See: www.nasco.int/sas/salsea.htm
2008–2012: Natural England – Molecular Ecology Approaches to Exploring Marine Connectivity: Analysis of Keystone Species within the British Isles. The project assesses genetic connectivity between two octocoral species groups: seafans (Eunicella) and soft corals (Alcyonium). The broader objectives of the research are to provide data for the basis of management plans for MPA designation and planning.
2010–2012: European Union Atlantic Area INTERREG, Atlantic Aquatic Resource Conservation (AARC) project; Exeter lead partner laboratory for genetic typing (microsatellite analysis). The Stevens laboratory is developing a database of genetic variability in trout (Salmo trutta) to underpin conservation of river-resident trout and to identify sea trout marine migrations. The findings of this multi-agency project will inform management policy for trout stocks and mixed-stock fisheries in southern England.
2009–1013: EU Framework 7 project (with Prof P. J. Mumby and a 17 laboratory international consortium): FORCE – Future of Reefs in a Changing Environment: an ecosystem approach to managing Caribbean coral reefs in the face of climate change. The aim of the research is to provide solutions to coral reef management problems. See: www.force-project.eu.
2001-2003 EU COST Action 833: Mange and myiasis of livestock
2002-2007 Scientific Advisor; International Atomic Energy Agency, Vienna - Coordinated Research Programme: Enabling Technologies for the Expansion of SIT for Old and New World Screwworm.
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