Energy flow at the base of the marine food web under global change

Master Thesis subject (30 ECTS)
There is a growing concern about the ability to produce enough nutritious food to feed the global human population by the end of this century (‘9 billion people question’, UN 2015). Nevertheless, hope goes to marine resources like aquaculture as a protein source for humans. Many commercially produced marine finfish need live feeds during their larval development stages. Copepods (Crustacea) have been shown to be suitable since they contain high amounts of so called essential fatty acids (EFAs), being fatty acids (FA) that fish can’t produce themselves and need to be obtained through their diet. However, how they assimilate and modify these FA remains largely unknown. Furthermore, it should be taken into account that the overall functioning of marine ecosystems and the energy transfer efficiency from primary producers to top consumers is expected to be impacted by global change. In this light, the master thesis will focus on the biosynthesis and bioconversion of FA by copepods at the basis of marine food webs in a global change scenario. This thesis will contribute to the PhD research of the mentor with the following 2 objectives: (1) to determine the efficiency of transfer of FAs from primary producers (diatoms) to consumers (copepods) under different temperature, food and stress regimes and (2) to study the molecular pathways of FA biosynthesis and metabolism under these regimes. The practical work will range from fieldwork to short-term lab experiments with live copepods and their food sources. This master thesis will be conducted at the Marine Biology Research group (UGent).
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De Troch
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mentor: Laurien Sannen,
Reference Number: RP-48911