Master’s degree project in Aquatic Ecology

The degree project may comprise 30-60 credits and can be carried out in a research group at the department of Biology, or at an external institution e.g. at another faculty or elsewhere.

Prerequisites for the Master’s degree project in Aquatic Ecology

Proposals for master degree projects in

Aquatic Ecology

Aquatic-terrestrial interfaces: Linking ponds to pollination

Agriculture is an especially damaging practice due to the removal of vegetation, drainage of large land areas, soil disturbance and heavy reliance on fertilisers. Agricultural sustainability requires practices that do not have adverse effects on environmental goods and services, and that lead to improvements in food productivity. Increasingly, research has addressed the conservation of wetlands, including ponds and most notably, throughout Europe (Cereghino, Biggs et al. 2008). Essential services include freshwater provisioning, climate regulation (biogeochemical cycling), disease regulation and habitat provisioning for animal and plant species. Despite this, they remain excluded from the provisions of the Water Framework Directive, even though this is intended to ensure the good status of all waters. There is now a need to strengthen, develop and coordinate existing initiatives, and to build a common framework in order to establish a sound scientific and practical basis for pond conservation.

Pollination, bio-control and nutrient retention are essential services in agroecosystems, provided by or enhanced by the presence of ponds in the environment. Ponds are essential for the preservation of aquatic biodiversity but they are also essential for ongoing productivity of agriculture and will play a large role in sustainable food provisioning for an increasing human population. Few existing studies directly link the presence or absence of a pond to the enhancement of important ecosystem services, such as pollination and biological control.

This is a field and lab based project (50/50 approximately). Field work will involve the capture of pollinators and/or predators and proper processing of sample. Lab work will involve the identification of some key species involved in pollination, with a view to further understanding the influence of pond presence on pollination services for valuable crops (e.g. strawberries). This is a great opportunity to gain experience of both terrestrial and aquatic field sampling methods in ecology as well as contribute to an important and valuable area of research. Students are encouraged to bring their own ideas, if they so wish.

Applicants should most importantly be positive and passionate about ecology and willing to work potentially long hours in the lab or field, potentially in bad weather, with many different invertebrates (do not apply if you are afraid of spiders or dragonflies). Experience working with pollinators and/or terrestrial invertebrates would be ideal but a mature attitude, willingness to learn and enthusiasm for biology are the only essential criteria. A driving license is also a plus.

Please contact Rebecca Stewart if you are interested in this proposal.

Aquatic-terrestrial interfaces: Linking ponds to biological control

Agriculture is an especially damaging practice due to the removal of vegetation, drainage of large land areas, soil disturbance and heavy reliance on fertilisers. Agricultural sustainability requires practices that do not have adverse effects on environmental goods and services, and that lead to improvements in food productivity.

Pollination, bio-control and nutrient retention are essential services in agroecosystems, provided by or enhanced by the presence of ponds in the environment. Ponds are essential for the preservation of aquatic biodiversity but they are also essential for ongoing productivity of agriculture and will play a large role in sustainable food provisioning for an increasing human population. Few existing studies directly link the presence or absence of a pond to the enhancement of important ecosystem services, such as pollination and biological control.

This is a field and lab based project (50/50 approximately). Field work will involve the sampling and identification of terrestrial predators, such as arachnids. Lab work will involve the identification of some key species associated to ponds; with a view to further understand the influence of pond presence on biological control of aphid pests. This is a great opportunity to gain experience of both terrestrial and aquatic field sampling methods, experimental ecology and to contribute to an important area of research. Students are encouraged to bring their own ideas, if they so wish.

Applicants should most importantly be positive and passionate about ecology and willing to work potentially long hours in the lab or field, potentially in bad weather, with many different invertebrates (do not apply if you are afraid of spiders or dragonflies). Experience working with pollinators and/or terrestrial invertebrates would be ideal but a mature attitude; willingness to learn and enthusiasm for biology are the only essential criteria. A driving license is also a plus.

Please contact Rebecca Stewart if you are interested in this proposal.

Can predation threat change phytoplankton behaviour?

Recent findings show that dinoflagellate swimming speed can be affected by the prescense of ciliate predators. This project will explore the possibility that marine dinoflagellate swimming sped and swimming direction are affected by chemical cues released from mesozooplankton (copepods, cladocerans). The work consists of laboratory experiments using several dinoflagelllate strains and different zooplankton predators. The swimming behavior will be filmed and interpreted using image analysis software.

Please contact Per Carlsson if you are interested in this proposal.

Zooplankton effects on dinoflagellate vertical migration

Dinoflagellate diel vertical migration means that the cells are swimming upwards towards the surface during the morning and spend the daylight hours in the surface waters. During evening they descent to deeper layers. It has so far been assumed that this behavior is controlled by the need for light for photosynthesis and inorganic nutrients which are plentiful deeper down. Recent experiments suggests that the risk of zooplankton predation may also be involved. Zooplankton (copepods) migrate also, but with the reverse pattern, i.e. they spend the night at the surface and are deeper down during the day, presumably to avoid predation by plankton eating fish. This project will study the duel vertical migration of dinoflagellates with or without zooplankton present in 2 m high cylinders placed in a laboratory.

Please contact Per Carlsson if you are interested in this proposal.

Assessing the effects on the marine pelagic food web by the invasive marine cladoceran Penilia avirostris

The cladoceran Penilia avirostris, a zooplankton originally distributed in tropical and subtropical marine areas around the world, is since 1990 occurring regularly in the North Sea, and since 2002 in Skagerack, Kattegat and Öresund. It has even become the dominant mesozooplankton species in Kattegat during autumn months with up to 4000 individuals m-3 .This project will investigate the effects of this invading species on the pelagic food web in Swedish coastal waters, with emphasis on the effects on other zooplankton, the microbial food web structure, and zooplankton consuming fish e g sprat and herring, Since this is a wide project, it can be divided into several smaller projects, e g:

  1. Does Penilia compete with resident copepod species for food?
  2. How is Penilia affecting the microbial food web by its different grazing behaviour compared to copepods (e g is there a competition for food with smaller zooplankton such as ciliates, and does Penilia short-cut the microbial loop, transporting more carbon to higher trophic levels?)
  3. How abundant are resting eggs in the sediment along the Swedish west coast and what are the optimum conditions (temperature, salinity, light) for the hatching of resting eggs? (if resting eggs are missing, Penilia must be transported to Swedish waters with currents each year.
  4. How nutritional is Penilia as a food source for pelagic planktivorous fish, compared with copepods?
  5. How is the capability for marine planktivorous fish to locate and prey upon Penilia, compared with copepods?

Please contact Per Carlsson if you are interested in this proposal.

The Ecology and Evolution of Partial Migration

Animal migration is an exceptionally widespread phenomenon, which occurs in birds, mammals and fish. Perhaps the most common type of animal migration is known as partial migration, where only some individuals within a population migrate and others remain resident the whole year around. Why only some individuals migrate is a puzzle, and this research project will ask questions about individual differences in migratory behaviour in a freshwater fish, the roach. This species is ideal to study in the context of partial migration as we can catch fish from Lake Kranksesjon and individually tag them with coded PIT tags prior to migration. We can then follow fish as they migrate (or not). There are a number of potentially interesting projects available here, for example looking at differences in behaviour, sex and habitat use between migrants and residents, or quantifying the costs and benefits of migration vs. residency. Alternatively students can come with their own ideas and these can be developed into research projects where suitable.

Applicants should most importantly be enthusiastic and passionate about biology, and be willing to work potentially long hours in the labs or field, potentially in bad weather. A driving license is also a benefit. Experience working with fish, field ecology or behavioural ecology is also a plus, but above all we are looking for keen and committed biologists with an aptitude for learning new skills and producing exciting science.

Please contact Ben Chapman if you are interested in this proposal.

Personality traits and boldness in freshwater fish

Exciting recent research has shown that personality (consistent individual differences in behaviour) is not unique to humans, but has been documented in many species in the animal kingdom, from birds and fish to ants and spiders. Many interesting questions arise from these observations: what maintains personality variation? What are the costs and benefits of different personality traits? How do we accurately measure and define personality traits to make comparisons across species? We are looking for enthusiastic students with a strong interest in animal behaviour to work on an experimental project to ask questions about animal personality in freshwater fish. The project will focus on a common personality trait in animals – boldness – and experimentally test for individual consistency in this behaviour across different contexts and at different times.

This will be primarily a lab-based project which will involve carrying out experiments to assay behaviour in fish, and then analysing behaviour using video analysis. Applicants should most importantly be enthusiastic and passionate about biology, and be willing to work potentially long hours in the lab. Experience working with fish or behavioural ecology is also a plus, but above all we are looking for keen and committed biologists with an aptitude for learning new skills and producing exciting science.

Involved researchers
Ben Chapman, Martin Stalhammer, Johan Hollander

Please contact Ben Chapman if you are interested in this proposal.


Back

Page manager: Inger Ekström
Questions about the website: Web Group
Publisher: Department of Biology

Last modified 13 Feb 2014

Information about Master's degree projects
Lund University, Box 117, SE-221 00 Lund, Sweden. Tel: +46 (0)46 222 00 00