I am a second year ARIES DTP student based at the University of Plymouth, working within the EmbryoPhenomics research group. I completed a BSc in Marine Biology and Oceanography in 2017, and MRes in Marine Biology in 2018 at the University of Plymouth. Through this I developed a keen interest in ecophysiology and developmental biology, specifically how early life stages of aquatic invertebrates respond to factors associated with climatic change, and how the environment experienced by previous generations influences the development of offspring. During previous research projects and my current PhD research, I have developed skills in marine and freshwater animal husbandry, respirometry, and in the use of automated bio-imaging systems and computer vision methods in ImageJ and Python, and applied these to quantify temperature and oxygen driven differences in aspects of embryo morphology, physiology and behaviour. These approaches generate vast amounts of video and phenotypic data, and as a result I have also developed skills in the use of big data analytics in R and Python.
Embryonic development is characterised by high degrees of temporal and functional change both within and between individuals, and responses to differences in the external environment during this highly dynamic life stage comprise a huge number of individual trait changes. Current estimates of environmental sensitivities to forecasted levels of environmental change are frequently based on data from adult stages, often ignoring periods of early development, during which sensitivities are markedly different. Phenomics, the acquisition of high dimensional phenotypic data at organism wide scales has seen widespread application within plant biology and medicine, and allow the relationships among multiple traits to be integrated into analyses of responses to environmental variables. My current research is focussed on the application of phenomics approaches through use of imaging and computer vision technologies, to characterise development stage specific sensitivities of aquatic embryos to environmental stress. The adoption of such approaches not only allows for the quantification of traditional measures of embryo size and movement, but also usage of machine ‘proxy traits’, measurements of fluctuations in pixel intensities within video data that provide integrative measures of whole organism physiology and behaviour.
OrCID ID: 0000-0002-3238-9781
Publications: McCoy, J.C.S., Spicer, J.I., Tills, O., Rundle, S.D. (2020). Both maternal and embryonic exposure to mild hypoxia influence embryonic development of the intertidal gastropod Littorina littorea. Journal of Experimental Biology, 223, DOI: 10.1242/jeb.221895.