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Research Fellows Directory

Karl Wotton

Dr Karl Wotton

Research Fellow


University of Exeter

Research summary

Recent global changes have degraded biodiversity and damaged the supply of ecosystem services vital for agricultural productivity, stability and resilience. Insect pollination is estimated to be worth €153 billion to the global economy and hoverflies are widely recognised as the second most important family of pollinators after bees. In addition, they play a major role in reducing populations of crop pests such as aphids. My vision is to understand how to integrate these abundant migratory species into agricultural practices. To achieve this, a greater understanding of the biology of key groups is vital. This research aims to establish hoverflies as a powerful experimental model of insect migration. Using state-of- the-art techniques such as flight simulators, magnetic flight arenas, transcriptomics, genomics and reverse genetics it will significantly advance our understanding of the environmental induction and genetic control of migration. This research will result in a major shift in our understanding of the genetics of migration from correlative studies that identify genes potentially involved in migration, to a mechanistic understanding of how these factors actually function. These factors may be lineage specific, or fundamental to migratory organisms, with the potential to alter movement capabilities in many different groups. Given the high number of migratory species that are pests or disease vectors, there is a great potential to target these factors using technological approaches aimed at reducing the negative consequences of migration. Finally, these results will form the basis for comparative studies addressing the fundamental question of how migration evolves, allowing insights into the origin of one of the most influential and inspiring events in nature.

Interests and expertise (Subject groups)

Grants awarded

The environmental and genetic basis of migration in the marmalade hoverfly

Scheme: University Research Fellowship

Dates: Oct 2016 - Sep 2021

Value: £489,267.74

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