Björklund lab: Research

1. Climate change and small felids in India

This a PhD-project with Andre Silva da Pinta as the main investigator and is a collaboration with Dr. Carlos Fernandes, Lisbon University, Portugal, and Dr. Shomita Mukherjee, India. The main question is the effect of climate warming on the distribution and population size of four small felids in India. Very little is known about these cats in terms of sensitivity to human disturbance, abundance or genetic variation; parameters that all are vital for the understanding of their long-term survival. By estimating these parameters and using niche modelling we hope to make long-term, broad, projections about the future of these species.

2. Long-term patterns of selection in the collared flycatchers (Ficedula albicollis)

This is a project together with Lars Gustafsson using his incredible data set collected over 35 years in the same population of collared flycatchers. The data set includes breeding and morphological data, but what makes it unique is that data on recruits into the breeding population is available, which can give a more accurate estimate of fitness. In total, the data set now contains over 12 000 data points. In this particular project we are looking at selection on body size over the years. Since we already have data on the heritability of traits we can use the data set to analyse patterns of selection and thus predict evolutionary change between generations. This in turn can be related to actual change of trait means, and hence estimate the long-term impact of selection versus other factors.

3. Local adaptation to climate change in the perch

We know that the climate is changing with increasing temperatures. How does that affect organisms that are dependent on ambient temperature? In particular, we are studying a fish, the perch (Perca fluviatilis), and its parasites. We are making use of the natural experiment performed at the nuclear powerplant Forsmark, where the cooling water has been entered into a closed, artificial, lake (Biotest Lake) for 35 years. A large number of effects have been seen in terms of growth, overall size, reproduction and parasite load compared to the undisturbed outside fish population. We already shown that there has been selection on the immune-genes (MHC) in the Biotest Lake, and that fish in the Biotest Lake has also acquired resistance to major macro-parasites. We are now performing transcriptomic analyses in order analyse the differences in expression patterns in the Biotest Lake and the outside, natural, population. Since we have genetic data from 1975 we hope to get an insight into the patterns of genetic change in life-history traits over time.

4. Urban adaptation in small passerines

This is a project run by Dr Juan Carlos Senar, Barcelona. My part of this project is to analyse genetic differentiation and gene flow between urban, suburban and forest populations of blue tits (Cyanistes caeruleus). We have previously done that for the great tit (Parus major) and found major differences between the forest and the parks in central Barcelona, but also differences between the different parks. Our aim is now to make a similar study for a comparison, and in that way try to get information of what kind of adaptations urban birds have evolved, or are moving towards.