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 Sophie Watson

Sophie Watson

Research student, School of Biosciences


Current Research

The gut microbiota, a diverse community of bacteria that resides within the gastrointestinal tract, has a long co-evolutionary association with its host, carrying out vital nutritional and physiological roles. In effect, the regular intestinal development and function of an individual is attributed to an array of specific bacterial groups or species, the composition and diversity of which are a function of complex interactions between host and environment.

My PhD research investigates how the gut microbiota diversity and composition of arctic species such as polar bears (Ursus maritimus) and wolverines (Gulo gulo) are influenced by parasite diversity/load and contaminant accumulation. In doing so, we aim to understand how rapidly increasing climatic and anthropogenic stressors in the arctic are influencing the gastrointestinal health of flag ship arctic species.

My research is funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and is conducted in collaboration with the USGS, McGill University and Université de Moncton.


Dr Sarah Perkins (Cardiff University)

Dr Frank Hailer (Cardiff University)

Dr Heidi Hauffe (Fondazione Edmund Mach)

Dr Melissa McKinney (McGill University)

Dr Todd Atwood (United States Geological Survey)

Other collaborators: Dr. Nicolas Lecomte, Université de Moncton, Canada.

Previous Research

After graduating with a BSc Hons in Zoology from Cardiff University, I spent three years working on black bear and brown bear research projects in America and Canada, including the 'USGS Northern Continental Divide Grizzly Bear Research Project’ in Montana and various projects throughout Alaska. During my time on these projects, I became interested in the parasite community of bear populations. This interest led to a Masters of Research (MRes) project producing a host-parasite sharing network for the Arctic, quantifying parasite spillover to polar bears, which I carried out at Cardiff University and the Fondazione Edmund Mach, Italy.