Internship: DNA metabarcoding to study feeding ecology of juvenile flatfish in the North Sea surfzone Internship: DNA metabarcoding to study feeding ecology of juvenile flatfish in the North Sea surfzone

Stage

Internship: DNA metabarcoding in the North Sea surfzone

We are looking for an enthusiastic MSc student to study feeding ecology of juvenile flatfish in the North Sea surfzone.

Larvae of flatfish are born in the North Sea and drift towards the coast and Wadden Sea where they settle in the relative warm and food rich areas. There they are able to grow fast and when they have become large enough they head for deeper water.

Currently the coastal zone which is the nursery area for young flatfish is heavily impacted by sand nourishments. The coast is protected against erosion by regularly supplying sand close to the shores. This influences the habitat for juvenile fish in several ways: changes in the sediment composition and changes in the slope of the shoreline. Changes in sediment likely influences the benthic food for flatfish which is buried in the seafloor. The question is whether the coastal zone, with its altered characteristics, is still suitable as a nursery area.

In this project we want to investigate the habitat use of juvenile flatfish (notably plaice, sole, turbot and brill) in the surfzone along the Dutch coast using man-pulled trawls and other fishing device operated from the beach while wading. As the newly settled fish are only a few centimetres in size we want to investigate the possibility of using DNA based techniques for diet analyses. Using DNA barcoding on stomach contents we hope to investigate the change in diet over the season, in relation to fish growth and in different locations along the coast with varying sediment composition. DNA sequencing and analysis will be performed at the ABG/MAE lab in Wageningen using the Oxford Nanopore MinION platform.

We are looking for an enthusiastic MSc student who wants to take up this challenge. The work thus encompasses:

  1. Period: September – January
  2. Developing the method to evaluate the stomach content based on DNA metabarcoding of prey species
  3. Apply this method on the samples taken
  4. Duration: 6 months

Supervision will take place by supervisors from Marine Animal Ecology, Wageningen Marine Research, Animal Breeding & Genomics. The work for the project will be mainly carried out in Wageningen (genetic work) and will last 6 months.