Profile of Kirthana Pillay
- Kirthana Pillay
- PhD Student
- School of Natural Sciences, Bangor University, Deiniol Road, Bangor, Gwynedd, LL57 2UW
Having a strong passion for wildlife, conservation and ecology, I pursued my undergraduate degree here in Bangor University in 2012. After graduating, I continued on in Bangor undertaking my MRes degree under the supervision of Prof George Turner and Dr Antonia Ford in the Molecular Ecology and Fisheries Genetics Lab (MEEB). This research focussed on using different morphological techniques along with molecular data to discriminate between Oreochromis populations in the crater lakes of Tanzania and Lake Malawi.
This research sparked my interest in using molecular tools for ecological research and conservation. Thus, I have returned to Bangor to start my PhD in MEEB having been awarded a PhD studentship by the Fisheries Society of the British Isles (FSBI) with the supervision of Prof Simon Creer, Dr Nigel Milner, Dr Nathalie Fenner and Prof Michael Parsons (Florida Gulf State University).
Mangrove ecosystems are important for sustaining commercial fisheries and livelihoods of people who depend on these fisheries. However, vast areas of mangrove forests have been under destruction to make way for human development. Previous research have focussed mainly on the effects of the changing environment on mangrove forests. Hence, there is a lack of research investigating the extent to which mangroves are being utilised by organisms that depend on these ecosystems. Such information is important for the conservation and future management of coastal fisheries.
The main aim of this research is to understand trophic interactions within heterogeneous subtropical mangrove ecosystems and to identify the sources of energy exchange, and its consequent impacts on recruitment to coastal fisheries. Molecular tools such as metabarcoding of gut contents and stable isotope analysis will be used to construct food webs and quantify energy exchange between different trophic levels.
This research will be in collaboration with the Florida Gulf State University’s (FGCU) Vester Field Station located in Estero Bay. The field station is surrounded by mangrove habitats that are fed by significant rivers and lie adjacent to saline coastal habitats offering an ideal juxtaposition of contrasting habitats.