Sónia Pascoal

Sónia Pascoal

Position: Postdoctoral Research Associate

Department: Zoology and Darwin College

Keywords: evolution, genomics, behaviour, ecology

My main research interest is to assess how we can sustain ecosystem function and biological diversity in a rapidly changing world. I investigate responses of natural populations to different levels of environmental change i) natural, ii) anthropogenic and iii) social, across several invertebrate study systems (primarily molluscs and insects).

I am currently a Research Associate in the Department of Zoology, working in the Behavioural Ecology group with Prof. Rebecca Kilner. Here, I have been studying how the social environment (parental care and male-female dynamics) influences the capacity for future evolutionary change. I do this by combining experimental evolution, artificial selection and proteomics, using burying beetles as the model system.

I have a PhD in Molecular Biology and Genetics from the University of Aveiro (Portugal; with Prof. Sonia Mendo and Prof. Carlos Barroso) and Bangor University (UK; with Prof Gary Carvalho, Prof. Roger Hughes and Prof. Simon Creer). For my PhD, I focused on genetic and phenotypic responses of marine gastropods to natural environmental variation (wave action and predation), and anthropogenic environmental change (due to pollutants). I successfully formulated and validated a new molecular mechanism for the development of ‘imposex’, where females exposed to persistent pollutants develop male sex organs and consequently become sterile.

I subsequently moved to the University of St Andrews to work with Prof Mike Ritchie and Dr. Nathan Bailey as a Research Fellow. Here, I studied populations of Hawaiian crickets that very recently lost their ability to sing, following exposure to attack by acoustically orienting parasitoid flies. I developed genomic, transcriptomic and proteomic resources to study rapid evolution in these crickets and used them to show that the loss of song has evolved convergently on different islands. This has led to calls to re-evaluate the use of biological control agents in agriculture, because my work suggests that resistance is likely to evolve very rapidly.

Get in touch: scm77 [at] cam.ac.uk