I am a PhD student in Marine Biology. My project aims to give a better description of the plankton-fish link using novel molecular tools. Planktivorous fish are key components of the pelagic food web as they support upper trophic levels, such as commercially important fish, and indirectly control algal growth by feeding on zooplankton. Although understanding the interactions between plankton and fish is crucial for the development of ecosystem-based management strategies, the full spectrum of planktivorous fish prey is rarely considered, mostly due to limitations of the methods. In this project, DNA metabarcoding on low levels of dietary DNA (dDNA) and modeling will be used to investigate the full prey spectrum of planktivorous fish. The outcome of the project will provide a better understanding on the plankton-fish interactions and help predict the variation of energy flow from primary producer to fish under different scenarios, such as climate warming, eutrophication and fisheries.
The project has four main objectives:
- Establishment of the accuracy of the molecular approach to prey estimation.
- Assessment of the spatial and temporal dynamics of zooplankton-fish interactions
- Investigation of the relationship between prey quantity, types, and traits, and fish feeding strategy.
- Predicting change of pelagic food web interactions in time and space, and their responses to current and future anthropogenic perturbations.