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ANTARCTIC FUNDING FOR C·I·B RESEARCHER

C·I·B core team member Dr Susana Clusella-Trullas received an Antarctic Science 2010 Award to study how marine invertebrates on Marion Island respond to changing temperature regimes.

Dr. Clusella-Trullas has a special interest in physiological ecology and her research combines theory, laboratory and field work to examine physiological responses of organisms to changing environmental conditions. Previous and current work includes assessing the effects of short-term and long-term (acclimation) temperature changes on metabolism, water balance and temperature tolerance of a variety of ectothermic organisms (e.g. onychophorans, insects, reptiles). These physiological traits coupled with behavioural and ecological data can then be incorporated into mechanistic models that enable predictions of species distributions under climate change.

She has received the award through the Antarctic Science Ltd (http://www.antarcticsciencebursary.org.uk/), a charitable company in the United Kingdom with strong links to the British Antarctic Survey. Its role is to promote Antarctic science nationally and internationally. The annual Antarctic Science award aims to provide career development opportunities for young scientists. The award provides the opportunity to broaden the scope of an existing collaborative research project between the C·I·B and the British Antarctic Survey (http://www.antarctica.ac.uk/).

In most marine invertebrates, the exposure to temperature stress results in an up-regulation of the main stress protein family Hsp70. These proteins are known to play a protective role by guiding the folding and the restoring function of proteins that are denaturating from heat stress. However, evidence for such a response in Antarctic species is scarce and very little scientific research has been done on the Hsp responses of sub-Antarctic species. Preliminary work by Dr Clusella-Trullas and MSc student Katelyn Faulkner indicates that several species of near-shore marine invertebrates on Marion Island respond strongly to acclimation treatments and thus, offer great model organisms to undertake Hsp assays.

Invertebrates to be investigated include crustaceans such as the isopod Exosphaeroma gigas and the amphipod Hyale hirtipalma, and gastropods such as the snail Laevilitorina caliginosa.

“The results of this study can help us making better predictions of the effects of global climate change on the geographic distribution of these marine species” says Dr Clusella-Trullas.

Dr Clusella -Trullas at work on Marion Island. Samples of near-shore marine invertebrates were collected to study the response of marine invertebrates to changing temperature regimes.