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University of the Sunshine Coast - Queensland
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5 Projects, page 1 of 1
  • Funder: Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia, I.P. Project Code: 2022.03867.PTDC
    Funder Contribution: 49,951.8 EUR

    More than ever, it is clear that understanding the evolutionary dynamics of human pathogens and parasites is crucial to ensure human health and well-being. Human lice of the species Pediculus humanus are blood-sucking ectoparasites that affect millions of people all over the Planet, with important public health, financial and social impacts. Despite intense research, there are many open questions regarding human lice biology, and this insufficient knowledge may lead to inadequate public health responses. In this proposal, we will investigate two aspects related to human lice evolution that remain elusive, but that may be fundamental to establish adequate management practices: DIVERGENCE POPULATION GENOMICS . Pediculus humanus is represented by two subspecies (also referred to as ecotypes), namely the head louse ( P. h. capitis ) and the body louse ( P. h. humanus ). While head lice are abundant and relatively innocuous, body lice are much less prevalent but can transmit potentially life-threatening diseases. Two extreme hypotheses have been put forward to explain the ecoevolutionary dynamics of these two forms: one suggesting that the body louse diverged from the head louse when humans began wearing clothes - single-origin (SO) hypothesis - and another suggesting that body lice arise regularly from head lice in infested individuals with poor hygiene and high level of infestation - continuous-origin (CO) hypothesis. Genetic evidence is scarce, conflictive and compatible with multiple, yet untested, evolutionary scenarios. We propose to sequence full genomes in large numbers of head and body lice across the world and use these data to ascertain: i) the divergence history of human lice, including formal tests of the SO and CO hypotheses, as well as of intermediate scenarios with varying levels of convergence and gene flow; ii) the genomic basis of differences between head and body lice and the functional implications of differentiation, including an appreciation of the nature of convergent evolution in this system. With the same data we can also perform an exploratory analysis of world-wide variation in a locus responsible for resistance to pediculicides, which will provide preliminary insights onto the rapid (and possibly convergent) evolution of resistance. THE ROLE OF LICE BACTERIAL COMMUNITIES . Pathogenic bacteria carried by both head and body lice can be of public health importance. Furthermore, as many other parasites, lice too rely on their bacterial symbiotic communities to ensure a variety of important biological functions. Despite several studies that have described specific bacterial communities, a thorough large-scale characterization of the human lice microbiome (including endosymbionts, the microbiota of the lice gut and pathogenic bacteria) is yet to be accomplished. We propose a metataxonomic approach to characterize bacterial communities and compare them across multiple levels: within the same individual, among ecotypes, between major lice lineages and between geographic locations, allowing an assessment of pathogens associated to each ecotype (both those already known and others of potential relevance), and evaluating a possible contribution of the microbiome for the physiological differences shown by the two ecotypes. Apart from these two research lines, this project has also an emphasis on science dissemination. Because of their familiarity to humans, human lice are useful models to promote scientific literacy. In the scope of our dissemination plan, this proposal will promote citizen contributions and produce outreach material which will raise awareness about lice controlling strategies and key evolutionary concepts such as natural selection. Despite its exploratory nature, this proposal provides assurance that we will obtain relevant results and answers for the questions we pose. First, the genome of lice is very small, which allows the collection of a large sequence data set even with a small budget. Second, our research team is multidisciplinary, including population geneticists, evolutionary biologists, parasitologists and researchers on science education, together holding an excellent publication record. Third, this proposal combines worldwide sampling and massive sequencing approaches (whole-genomes and metataxonomy), both of which have never been applied to this problem. Fourth, we embrace hot topics in evolutionary biology (the genomic underpinnings of phenotypic convergence, with a particular emphasis on the role of gene flow in the process) ensuring its scientific interest for the evolutionary biology community. Finally, a full catalog of the bacterial communities present in lice will be of direct applicability for medical research and public health policies. Mais do que nunca, compreender a dinâmica evolutiva dos organismos patogénicos e parasitas do ser humano é importante para assegurar a saúde e bem-estar humanos. Os piolhos da espécie Pediculus humanus são ectoparasitas que se alimentam exclusivamente de sangue humano e que afetam milhões de pessoas por todo o mundo, com impactos importantes na saúde pública, financeiros e sociais. Apesar da investigação intensiva, existem ainda muitas questões em aberto relativas à biologia dos piolhos, e este conhecimento insuficiente impede uma resposta adequada aos problemas de saúde pública por eles colocados. Esta proposta aborda duas questões em aberto que poderão ser fundamentais na gestão deste parasita: GENÓMICA DA DIVERGÊNCIA POPULACIONAL. A espécie P. humanus inclui duas subespécies: o piolho da cabeça ( P. h. capitis ) e o piolho do corpo ( P. h. humanus ). Enquanto os piolhos da cabeça são abundantes e relativamente inofensivos, os piolhos do corpo são menos prevalentes mas capazes de transmitir doenças potencialmente fatais. Existem duas hipóteses extremas para explicar a dinâmica ecoevolutiva das duas formas: a hipótese de origem única (OU) sugere que o piolho do corpo divergiu do da cabeça quando os humanos começaram a utilizar roupas; a hipótese da origem constante (OC) sugere que os piolhos do corpo aparecem regularmente a partir dos piolhos da cabeça em pacientes com higiene deficiente. A evidência genética é escassa, incongruente entre si, e compatível com múltiplos cenários nunca testados. Neste projeto propomos sequenciar genomas completos em centenas de piolhos de todo o mundo e usar estes dados para investigar: i) a divergência dos piolhos humanos, incluindo testes formais das hipóteses OU e OC, bem como de cenários intermédios; ii) a base genómica das diferenças entre as duas subespécies e os aspetos funcionais da diferenciação, incluindo uma apreciação da natureza da convergência neste sistema. Com os mesmos dados, analisaremos ainda, de forma exploratória, a variação mundia num locus responsável pela resistência a pediculicidas, o que irá permitir obter conhecimentos importantes sobre a rápida (e possivelmente convergente) evolução da resistência. O PAPEL DAS COMUNIDADES BACTERIANAS DOS PIOLHOS. Tal como muitos outros parasitas, os piolhos dependem das comunidades de bactérias simbióticas para assegurar diversas funções biológicas importantes. Adicionalmente, as bactérias patogénicas existentes quer nos piolhos do corpo quer nos piolhos da cabeça podem ser importantes em termos de saúde pública. No entanto, uma caracterização em larga escala do microbioma dos piolhos humanos (incluindo endosimbiontes, o microbiota do intestino e bactérias patogénicas) ainda não foi feita. Propomos uma abordagem metataxonómica para caracterizar as comunidades bacterianas a vários níveis: dentro do mesmo indivíduo, entre ecótipos, entre linhagens evolutivas, e entre regiões geográficas, permitindo a descrição dos agentes patogénicos associados com cada ecótipo, quer os que já foram descritos como sendo transmitidos por piolhos quer outros de relevância potencial, e avaliando a possível contribuição do microbioma para as diferenças fisiológicas exibidas pelos dois ecótipos. Graças à familiaridade dos seres humanos com estes parasitas, os piolhos são um modelo privilegiado para promover a literacia científica. No âmbito do nosso plano de disseminação, iremos promover a contribuição dos cidadãos e produzir material de divulgação com o objetivo de aumentar o conhecimento sobre estratégias de controlo dos piolhos e conceitos chave em evolução como por exemplo o de seleção natural. Apesar da sua natureza exploratória, esta proposta garante a obtenção de resultados relevantes e respostas para as questões propostas: 1) o genoma do piolho é muito reduzido, o que permite obter grandes quantidades de dados de sequenciação mesmo com um orçamento pequeno. 2) a nossa equipa de investigação é multidisciplinar, incluindo geneticistas populacionais, biólogos evolutivos, parasitólogos e investigadores em ciências da educação, detendo em conjunto um registo de publicações excelente. 3) Esta proposta combina uma amostragem a nível mundial com abordagens de sequenciação massiva (genómica e metataxonómica) nunca antes aplicadas a este problema). 4) focamo-nos em tópicos altamente relevantes em biologia evolutiva (a base genómica da convergência fenotípica, com ênfase no papel do fluxo génico neste processo; o uso de roupas pelos humanos primitivos), assegurando o seu interesse científico. 5) a obtenção de um catálogo das comunidades de bactérias presentes nos piolhos humanos terá uma aplicabilidade directa na investigação biomédica e no estabelecimento de medidas de saúde pública.

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  • Funder: UK Research and Innovation Project Code: NE/T004517/1
    Funder Contribution: 83,705 GBP

    Climate resilience is generally defined as the capacity to: (1) maintain function in the face of external stressors (i.e. climate impacts) and/or (2) adapt so as to be better prepared for future climate change impacts. Small islands are disproportionately vulnerable to climate change due to rising temperatures and sea levels, land loss, and increasing extreme weather risks, making climate resilience a major priority. Yet, while climate resilience is being practiced across multiple island states and regions, there is little scholarship that considers individual examples of impacts and adaptations in the larger context of 'islandness'. Existing scholarship tends to focus on islands within geographical (e.g. Pacific) or socio-economic (e.g. Small Island Developing States, or SIDS) groupings. By assuming that island experiences are grounded solely in shared geographical space or socio-economic contexts, rather than shared 'islandness' (grounded in states of smallness, boundedness, isolation and fragmentation), this siloed approach stymies opportunities to identify transferable practices, limiting understanding of island-related issues in climate resilience. Arguably, this stems in part from methodological deficits. Approaches used in global and regional climate impact assessments are often poorly suited to small islands and especially atolls, with climate models especially constrained in their ability to provide information on local scales. Additionally, little is known about the existing, culturally-grounded coping capacity of island communities, and to what extent these traits promote good adaptation (which, unlike coping, involves sustainable long-term responses), particularly in peripheral/rural islands where data is scarce compared to core/urban areas. Through the establishment of an international, interdisciplinary collaboration on island climate resilience, SUNRISE will address these issues. By applying their complimentary skills and expertise in a diverse set of island contexts (Scotish Isles, Mauritius, Fiji), the research team will develop new approaches that bridge the gaps around how islandness is accounted for in climate impacts research. SUNRISE will pilot new approaches through a series of focus groups and household surveys centred on perceptions of climate change impacts, informed by place-based, culturally-grounded usage of climate and environmental data. In doing so, SUNRISE will seek to situate varied, individual examples of place-based climate impacts and resilient practice within the wider context of small island experiences.

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  • Funder: UK Research and Innovation Project Code: NE/T005092/1
    Funder Contribution: 98,558 GBP

    Regenerating degraded tropical forests is a key approach for mitigating future climate change and restoring essential ecosystem services, including water cycling and biodiversity conservation. The Bonn Challenge sets two key targets: to restore 150 million hectares of degraded lands by 2020 and 350 million hectares by 2030, with the aim of re-instating ecological integrity alongside human well-being into degraded areas based on the forest and landscape restoration approach. Currently, the policy environment is conducive to restoration as countries have made significant commitments to restoring their forests in order to help meet their obligations under the Paris climate change agreement and the Bonn Challenge directly. There is significant opportunity for restoring natural forests in tropical Southeast Asia; whilst they have been extensively degraded by logging, fragmentation and industrial Oil Palm cultivation, mature natural forests in SEA have a capacity to store and cycle the largest quantities of above-ground carbon per unit area in the world (Banin et al. 2014; Sullivan et al. 2016), and therefore reinstating natural forests offers substantial ecosystem service benefits if long-term restoration can be achieved (Lewis et al. 2019). However, devising successful forest restoration strategies for tropical forests involves careful, evidence-based decision-making, at various spatial scales and working with multiple stake-holders. To ensure the long-term success of restoration efforts, our project initiates a new multidisciplinary network focussing on regeneration of Southeast Asian (SEA) logged and degraded forests. Our research will be delivered through two work packages. In work package 1, project partners will provide standardised data unavailable in the literature to deliver a new published synthesis of site-level evidence providing insights into post-restoration ecological processes (carbon accumulation and community dynamics). This work will provide a basis for a sustained long-term restoration experiment network. In work package 2, we host an interdisciplinary workshop which will use the Heart of Borneo project area as a transboundary case study to (i) identify the barriers, constraints and opportunities for forest landscape restoration and (ii) develop an agenda of research and data needs for spatial prioritization for landscape-level restoration These activities will be delivered through interactive engagement between academic and practitioner stakeholders, including key policy-makers, at a workshop in Malaysia, which will contribute to our broader, long-term goal of linking ecological and social science research to policy and practice in restoration decision-making. The proposed FOR-RESTOR project will be a new collaboration between the NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH), Universities of Aberdeen, Exeter, Oxford and RSPB in the UK and international partners from Australia, Italy, Sweden, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia & Singapore. The team uniquely brings together expertise in carbon cycling, functional ecology, biodiversity-ecosystem function relationships, conservation genetics, genetic resources and seed systems, ecological restoration, forest landscape restoration and forest science-policy and science-practice interfaces.

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  • Funder: UK Research and Innovation Project Code: EP/N030419/1
    Funder Contribution: 1,043,760 GBP

    Cities are the driver of regional, national and indeed global economies. The complex inter-relationship between urban areas and their hinterlands is a vital aspect of a city's economic success. Hinterlands supply resources such as water, food and energy; while being economically-tied to the urban area through trade. Creating resilient, sustainable, water-secure cities depends on our understanding of the potential future risks of changing hydro-hazards (floods and droughts) and our ability to increase our resilience to them. Worldwide, in 2014, hydro-hazards resulted in over $16Bn (floods) and $7.5Bn (droughts) in damages. While, in the UK over the past five years there have been significant challenges to water management posed by hydro hazards. Since 2000, flooding has caused over £5Bn worth of damage, of which £3Bn was caused by the 2007 floods, and over £1Bn from the 2013/14 winter storms, impacting households and businesses alike. Similarly direct costs (estimated at £70-165M) from the recent UK drought (2011-12) arose from impacts to urban water supplies, and industry. Projections of future climate recognise that there is an added uncertainty in temperature and precipitation trends which may exacerbate the frequency and severity of such hazards. To respond to the stated challenge of transforming our cities to be resilient, sustainable urban centres and in the context of 'adapting to and mitigating climate change', I will quantify uncertainty in future hydro-hazards and design engineering/policy interventions to increase urban resilience which informs future urban water security adaptation for cities and their hinterlands. My fellowship will: 1. quantify future urban hydro-hazard uncertainty in a warming climate using novel techniques, 2. design engineering and policy interventions to mitigate the risk arising from these uncertainties, and 3. improve urban living through enhanced resilience to hydro-hazards. I will achieve this by capturing uncertainty in hydro-hazard events and cascading this through to hazard assessment, challenging the current deterministic paradigm. I will characterise the vulnerability profile of newly exposed populations or sectors, and develop a ground breaking systems approach to ameliorate risk in order to design transformative resilience strategies. The delivery of this vision is challenging yet possible through combining advances in uncertainty quantification from a variety of fields, with my research which has consistently sought to challenge the deterministic paradigm. Awarding this fellowship will create a unique opportunity to improve our understanding of the role of climate projections on the systematic risk to urban living and how such risks can be addressed. Output will include: 1. detailed understanding of the change to hydro hazards across the UK as a result of climate projections (and associated uncertainty), communicated in the context of climate variability, 2. probabilistic frameworks to capture climate uncertainty into assessments of systematic risk posed by changing hydro hazards at the urban scale, 3. analysis of the changing urban vulnerability, the uncertainty associated with this and exploration of the newly exposed population using new, and highly discretised vulnerability metrics, 4. a systems approach to urban resilience to changing hydro hazards, and 5. resilience strategies; e.g. transformative engineering interventions.

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  • Funder: UK Research and Innovation Project Code: EP/V043102/1
    Funder Contribution: 510,561 GBP

    Indigenous Peoples (IPs) are believed to be at particularly high risk from COVID, exacerbated by climate risks and socio-economic stresses. There is emerging evidence that national responses to the pandemic are compounding the vulnerability of IPs, exacerbated by little--if any--understanding on the unique pathways through which COVID will affect IPs. This project will address this knowledge and policy gap by documenting, monitoring, and examining how COVID is interacting with multiple stresses to affect the food systems of IPs globally, co-generating knowledge and capacity to strengthen resilience. Our focus on food reflects the fact that many of the risks posed by COVID stem from interactions with food systems, which for IPs are composed of a mix of traditional and modern elements. The work will be undertaken in collaboration with 24 distinct Indigenous peoples in 14 countries, and is structured around objectives which will: document the emergence of COVID and examine its impacts on food systems to-date; monitor and examine the real-time lived experiences, responses, and observations on COVIDs impact on food systems; compile and assess how COVID is being officially communicated and responded to; identify, examine, and promote interventions to strengthen resilience; and examine scalable insights for vulnerable populations across LMICs. Qualitative data collection is underpinned by a network of 'COVID Observers' within communities, in decision making roles, and researchers already located in the study regions, who will document their experiences and observations in reflective diaries over a 12 month period, capturing different stages of the pandemic and how multiple factors interact over time to create vulnerability and resilience. The global scope of the work builds upon ongoing and completed projects by team members in the study regions, leveraging considerable capacity and networks developed in work funded by DFID, UKRI, Wellcome Trust, FAO, and IDRC, among others.

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