A global partnership to understand the fate of native, invasive and hybrid mussels in a warming ocean

Lead Research Organisation: University of Exeter
Department Name: Biosciences


Sea temperatures are rising and marine invasive species are becoming more prevalent. This project aims to understand how climate change and hybridisation between exotic and native marine species leads to rapid adaptation in coastal species. Using integrative approaches from genomics and physiology, and focusing on Australian blue mussels, this partnership award will test leading hypotheses about how climate change and hybridisation can enable rapid adaptation and the spread of exotic species. Outcomes will include strategies for minimising impacts of invasive mussels and boosting warm-temperature adaptation in aquaculture mussels. The project will yield fundamental insights into how marine species can quickly adapt to warming seas; understanding that has major implications for projecting the response of both natural populations, and managing aquaculture productivity, in the face of climate change.

This partnership award builds on PI Ellis' NERC funded Innovation Fellowship, to address the question 'does thermal tolerance assist invasive spread?'. The proposal brings together leading international researchers at the forefront of Mytilus research world-wide. We combine Ellis' expertise, and those of A/Prof Anne Todgham (UC Davis) and Dr Mauricio Urbina (Universidad de Concepcion), who are existing project partners as part of Ellis' fellowship, with the complimentary expertise of new project partners Prof Cynthia Riginos (University of Queensland) and A/Prof Craig Sherman (Deakin). With a range of career ages represented (senior: Riginos; mid: Sherman/Todgham; early: Ellis/Urbina) we can combine experience with training, mentoring, fresh perspectives, and complementary skill sets.

To achieve the ambitious objectives of this innovative and exciting proposal, this project comprises of three key activities. Two international workshops (1 in UK and 1 in Australia) will facilitate the establishment of an international mussel research network, as well as coordinate the self-sustaining future of the network financially beyond the life of this award. Reciprocal exchange visits for PI Ellis, in addition to 2 ECRs from Exeter, to Australia, as well as 1 ECR each from the Universities of Queensland and Deakin to Exeter, will facilitate knowledge exchange between laboratories and career development of the next generation of international mussel researchers. Finally, the project will undertake an experiment investigation of the role of enhanced thermal tolerance in the successful invasion of Mytilus galloprovincialis in Australia, utilising the unique expertise of Australian Mytilus system, access to world-class facilities (Queenscliff Marine Research Station) and bespoke experimental technology (developed during Ellis' fellowship) that this international collaboration affords. Thus this international partnership is in a unique position globally to address this question of fundamental ecological and evolutionary significance.


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