Research Fellows Directory
Dr Jonathan Blount
University of Exeter
Research area: Animal ecophysiology
Lay explanation: My research focuses on how animals resolve trade-offs in the allocation of resources that are in limited supply. I work on a range of applied as well as ‘blue skies’ topics, such as conservation physiology of turtles, damaging effects of sunlight exposure on sexual colouration and immunity, mechanisms which ensure reliability of information transfer in the colourful signals used by animals to deter predators and to attract mates, and cellular mechanisms that underpin ageing and variation in lifespan.
Impact: My research has been published in the highest ranked international science journals (e.g. Science, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA) and the top journals in my specific field (e.g. Ecology Letters; Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B). In addition, my research has featured in numerous articles in the national and international media (e.g. BBC news; NERC’s Planet Earth magazine; National Geographic), thus raising the profile of UK science.
Benefits to society:
Understanding of conservation threats - we showed that endangered green turtles nesting at Ascension Island in the South Atlantic Ocean are ‘locally adapted’ to the thermal environment of the specific beach where individuals were born. This means that there is little flexibility in where individuals can nest, such that loss of a specific beach could have catastrophic consequences for population viability. Furthermore, it highlights the fact that marine turtle evolution is unlikely to be able to keep track with the decadal pace of climate change.
Understanding ageing - telomeres are protective caps at the ends of chromosomes which shorten with age; using a bird study system we showed that the length of an individual’s telomeres in early life determines its adult lifespan. Our work highlights the importance of early-life experiences in shaping life-long health and longevity, and is relevant to human ageing.