Dr Amy Ellison
I am broadly interested in all aspects of evolutionary biology, especially pathogen-host interactions and co-evolution. I have a particular interest in how next-generation sequencing technologies can be used in the study of biotic and abiotic factors influencing species-specific differences in responses to shared pathogens. In addition, I am interested in how parasites and other pathogens influence genetic diversity and structuring in host populations.
Anthropogenic induced changes to wild species (e.g. climate change, habitat destruction/fragmentation, introduction of invasive species) and domesticated species (e.g. increased intensity of farming, farming in new geographic regions, global transportation) populations are leading to alterations of host exposure risks to both native and novel pathogens. Consequently, the dynamics of host-pathogen interactions are currently changing at unprecedented rates in both natural and domestic animal populations. Therefore, studying how pathogens drive the evolution of host immune-related genes, how different host species respond to a common pathogen, and how host behaviour, gene expression, and environment interact, is crucial to our understanding of altered pathogen transmission dynamics and its consequences on host species fitness. I believe in this flourishing era of high-throughput sequencing and bioinformatics, we are uniquely poised to tackle such questions at a new level of detail.
During my undergraduate studies (BSc in Zoology at Aberystwyth University, 2006-2009) I gained a keen interest in parasitology, resulting in a final year thesis investigating the proteomics of intraspecific competition of Schistocephalus solidus. After graduation I was awarded an IBERS PhD studentship (supervised by Dr. Sonia Consuegra) in the evolutionary genetics of the maintenance of mixed-mating systems. My research included a range of studies of fish behavior, population genetics, immunogenetics, epigenetics and parasite screening. My first postdoctoral position was at Cornell University (Zamudio Lab) as a NSF research associate, using comparative functional genomics to investigate mechanisms of resistance to chytridiomycosis in amphibians. I joined Cardiff in June 2015 as a Sêr Cymru Postdoctoral Fellow to study the impacts of intensive aquaculture on farmed fish disease resistance.
Currently, as part of the NRN-LCEE AquaWales project, I am investigating the effects of intensive aquaculture stressors (e.g. stocking densities, water temperatures) on disease resistance in farmed fishes. In addition to classic parasitological measures, I will be employing RNA-seq strategies to uncover the functional genomics of disease resistance during domestication of fish. I am also investigating the genomes and landscape genetics of pathogens currently devastating fish farms and the ornamental fish trade, ultimately to assist development of rapid surveillance methods.