Major funding secured to help track fish movement and health

  • Date

    Wed 8 Sep 21

Dr Anna Sturrock standing outside with a river and a bridge behind her.

Essex aquatic ecologist Dr Anna Sturrock has been awarded major funding to track fish movements and health, and to identify the critical habitats they need to survive.

Dr Sturrock, from the School of Life Sciences, is among the latest wave of successful applicants to receive funding as part of the prestigious UK Research and Innovation’s Future Leaders Fellowships Scheme. Dr Sturrock has been awarded nearly £1.7 million for an initial four-year period, which could be extended for a further three years.

“It is a huge privilege and honour to receive this funding,” said Dr Sturrock, who has been studying and working in the field of marine and freshwater biology for almost 20 years. “We are at a pivotal moment in UK fisheries and I hope this research will help us to be better stewards of the environment.

“It’s important that we continue to push science forward that improves the sustainability and productivity of fisheries at both a local and global level.”

Her fellowship will focus on tracking fish movements, identifying the critical habitats they need to survive, and assessing their vulnerability to different stressors so that we can better protect wild stocks and predict future changes to global protein supply.

This innovative project will develop and utilise cutting edge, cross-disciplinary approaches, involving a team of international collaborators, and will include a range of study species and ecosystems, including North Sea plaice, tropical tunas, Baltic cod, and UK, US and New Zealand salmon species.

“Combining electronic tags with chemical tracers in the fish’s body gives us unique opportunities to learn how different species and life stages interact with their environment, and how they respond behaviourally and physiologically to stressors such as warming, pollution and hypoxia (low oxygen). Finally, we will forecast the impact of different global change scenarios on fisheries productivity and food security,” added Dr Sturrock.

The aim of the project will be to identify innovative solutions to support sustainable management of fisheries, both in rivers and the sea, which can inform future policy decision making for resource management.

“Fisheries stability is largely dictated by the survival (or not) of the youngest individuals, yet it’s these early life stages that we know the least about,” added Dr Sturrock. “Chemical tracers and biochronologies - my primary area of expertise - have an exciting (but largely unrealised) potential to allow us to look back in time and reveal how the behaviour and health of early life stages impact their lifetime success.”

The aim of the Future Leaders Fellowships scheme is to develop the next wave of world-class research and innovation leaders in academia and business.

Launching the latest round of Future Leaders Fellowships, UK Research and Innovation Chief Executive, Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser, said: “I am delighted that UKRI is able to support the next generation of research and innovation leaders through our Future Leaders Fellowship programme.

“The new Fellows announced today will have the support and freedom they need to pursue their research and innovation ideas, delivering new knowledge and understanding and tackling some of the greatest challenges of our time.”