Dr. Marion Chatelain (PhD)

Trace metal effects on wild great tit and blue tit oxidative stress and fitness in a gradient of urbanisation (POLONEZ, Marie Curie Actions)

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How does urbanisation affect wildlife in cities? I am investigating this key research question by working on great tit (Parus major) and blue tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) populations breeding in a gradient of urbanisation in the city of Warsaw in Poland. Five hundred nestboxes are studied in a continuum of urban to rural conditions, for which tree cover as well as noise, light and chemical pollution are determined for each nestbox. I am investigating the link between oxidative stress, a physiological index of organismal health, and the degree of urbanisation. In particular, I am currently estimating the extent to which trace metal exposure is linked to urbanisation-induced oxidative stress in great and blue tit populations. Because oxidative stress and trace metal exposure are likely to affect great and blue tits through several physiological pathways, I am estimating their impact on great and blue tit health by measuring bird body mass and body condition, telomere length (telomeres protect the end of a chromosome from deterioration, and their length has been associated with the rate of ageing in animals), reproductive success and survival. Finally, I am asking whether urbanisation-induced physiological changes identified in this study have a genetic basis. Understanding the nature of these processes (acclimatization vs. genetic based differences) is of fundamental interest in evolutionary biology and conservation biology alike. Such knowledge will also be of great value in making accurate forecasts about which animals may settle and thrive in cities.

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