Eugenie (Charley) Yen
Project title: Using genomics to investigate the adaptive potential of sea turtles in a warming world
Summary: Understanding what contributes to the adaptive potential of endangered species is essential for predicting how they will respond to climate change. The unprecedented rate of global warming particularly threatens ectotherms, due to their dependency on environmental temperature for key physiological functions. Sea turtles are such species on the brink of extinction, owing to their temperature-dependent sex determination system, with most populations projected to become entirely feminised by the century end. This project will bring new insights into the adaptive potential of sea turtles by determining the molecular underpinnings of adaptive thermal responses, using endangered loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) nesting on the Cabo Verde archipelago as a model, natural system. After de novo assembly of a novel reference genome, genome-wide scans of genetic and DNA methylation patterns will be performed to: (i) identify locally adapted genomic/epigenomic regions between wild, nesting populations in relation to island-specific thermal regimes; and (ii) disentangle the contribution of environmentally induced versus inherited epigenetic marks using quantitative genetic, split clutch design incubation experiments. By combining genomic tools and experimental manipulations, this project will improve our knowledge of the adaptive potential through local adaptation and/or phenotypic plasticity, to guide sea turtle population management in a warming world.