CACHE catches up with researcher Trystan Sanders and finds out how he’s been getting on:
-Tell us how your research is going: what sort of things have you discovered to date?
We have had plenty of discoveries over the last two years, big and small. I guess the biggest discovery so far is how costly life is for mussels at the limit of their distributions and how this affects their growth. These mussels have to put a lot more energy into basic processes such as ion regulation and synthesizing proteins that they have very little energy left to grow their shells. We have seen this in the quality and contents of their shells. We have also seen that the larvae of these mussels are significantly smaller and slower growing and consume almost 3 x more oxygen than mussels from the ocean where the salinity is a lot higher. We have also found that the genotypes of the mussels greatly affect their ability to cope with environmental change. Especially with regards to calcification.
-Tell us, very simply, about why comparing animals along an environmental gradient helps us understand the costs of calcification?
Growth is a dynamic process involving portioning of energy to many processes. When environmental conditions change, the animal changes its physiology in response in order to increase its chances of survival. By comparing organisms along a slowly changing gradient such as the salinity gradient in the Baltic Sea, we can compare how much energy different populations input into certain processes such as calcification. By comparing the input of energy into calcification and the output of calcification eg. the shell mass, we can calculate the cost of this process to the animal as a whole. This is, however, easier said than done as the mechanisms and processes of calcification need to be well known before these measurements can be reliable!
-What have been your highlights during your time with CACHE so far?
Almost definitely the training courses and meetings. I sometimes feel like only me and a few others at my institute care about shellfish and calcification! So it’s nice to get together with the rest of the crew on the CACHE project and talk about our individual projects and share ideas.
-How are you enjoying living in Germany?
I’m loving life as always here. I like the variation with regards to the climate, workload and Kiel is full of fun things to do. You just have to put a bit of effort into searching for them!
-Have you had much time for your hobbies, like your diving?
I always make sure I have enough time for my hobbies as I have so many of them. I have also come to realise that my hobbies and interests are very adaptable depending on what is available. So in fact, I have hardly done any diving since I started my PhD, however I have taken up new hobbies such as road cycling, climbing and various other sports. I find it very hard to be bored in life.
-What’s your priority with your research for the remainder of the CACHE project?
At the moment my priority is to make sure I complete the larval experiment we have been working on for the last year. As the larval season is for only a few months in the spring it is important to get this right this year. So far so good though!