"With a growing human population and urbanisation of the landscape, it is increasingly important to understand and predict the consequences of urbanisation on ecosystems. An important step in this direction is to address how individual organisms respond to human disturbance and how this impacts on populations in urban environments. This proposal outlines a multidisciplinary research project combining physiology, molecular biology, toxicology, and evolutionary ecology to study the short- and long-term consequences of urbanization on the cellular health and performance of wild birds. The work is divided into two synergistic work packages (WPs), each using comparative and experimental approaches in replicated urban/rural pairs of bird populations across Europe. In WP1, I will test how urbanisation affects bird nutrition and its implications for their physiology and how this impacts on growth, reproduction, and survival. In WP2, I will target the short- and long-term effects of pollution on the health of wild birds, and whether birds in urban environments exhibit adaptations to high levels of pollution. My research will use state-of-the-art methods in physiology and ecotoxicology – including analyses of fatty acids and antioxidant profiles, accumulation of oxidative damage and heavy metals, and dietary intake using stable isotopes. Furthermore, capitalizing on recent genomic resources for great tits, I will document genetic variation in candidate antioxidant genes (single nucleotide polymorphism) and global and local variation in DNA-methylation between individuals within and among populations. The present project will enhance European research excellence by producing novel high-quality science at the interface of ecology and physiology and by contributing to the development of a European network of researchers in urban ecology. A successful outcome of this integration grant will bring me one step closer to secure tenure at one of the leading universities in Europe."
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