Dr Charlie Ellis – Postdoctoral Research Assisstant

Charlie is a biologist passionate about marine and fisheries conservation. Having grown up in coastal North Cornwall, a fascination for marine life became interest in creating sustainable ways to meet seafood demand, and the conservation of both traditional inshore fishing fleets and the marine ecosystems they operate in, which naturally led him into collaboration with the National Lobster Hatchery from 2005.

Having held several roles at the Hatchery following his graduation from Plymouth University, Charlie undertook a PhD with the University of Exeter in 2012, focussing on the molecular, reproductive and population ecology of European lobsters, and the implications the species biology has on their conservation, especially via hatchery stock enhancement. This project has helped lay the groundwork to use genetic markers to test population structure and reproductive ecology in local lobsters, and provide lobster hatcheries and alternative stock conservation measures with a genetic method to identify released animals, enabling assessments of how well they contribute to the sustainability of pressured or depleted marine populations.

After receiving his doctorate in 2016, Charlie re-joined the NLH team to work on Lobster Grower 2 (LG2), our collaborative mariculture research project which has significant scope to revolutionise the productivity and sustainability of lobster fisheries and seafood supply. Charlie is responsible for designing, sampling, analysing and reporting on biological and oceanographic factors and their compatibility with the successful mariculture of European lobsters. Charlie also helps supervise collaborative research students and assists in the development of the strategy and capacity for NLH research.

Interests and expertise:

  • Sustainable fisheries and aquaculture
  • Stock enhancement
  • Rear-and-release projects
  • Ecological conditioning in cultured animals
  • Genetic effects of releasing cultured animals
  • Applications of parentage-based tagging
  • Advancement of monitoring methods for small and/or moulting animals
  • Population dynamics in marine species

Ellis CD, Hodgson DJ, Daniels CL, Collins M, Griffiths AGF. (2017) Population genetic structure in European lobsters: implications for connectivity, diversity and hatchery stocking. Marine Ecology Progress Series. 563: 123–137. Full text

Ellis CD, Hodgson DJ, André C, Knutsen H, Sørdalen TK, Griffiths AGF. (2015) Genotype reconstruction of paternity in European lobsters (Homarus gammarus). PLoS ONE. 10(11): e0139585. Full text

Ellis CD, Hodgson DJ, Daniels CL, Boothroyd DP, Bannister RCA, Griffiths AGF. (2015) European lobster stocking requires comprehensive impact assessment to determine fishery benefits. ICES Journal of Marine Science. 72 (S1): i35-i48. Full text

Ellis CD, Knott H, Daniels CL, Witt MJ, Hodgson DJ. (2015) Geographic and environmental drivers of fecundity in the European lobster (Homarus gammarus). . ICES Journal of Marine Science. 72 (S1): i91-i100. Full text

Neenan ST, Hodgson DJ, Tregenza T, Boothroyd D, Ellis CD. (2014) The suitability of VIE tags to assess stock enhancement success in juvenile European lobsters (Homarus gammarus). Aquaculture Research. 46 (12), 2913–2923. Full text

Jenkins TL, Ellis CD, Stevens JR. (2018) SNP discovery in European lobster (Homarus gammarus) using RAD sequencing. Conservation Genetics Resources. 1-5, doi:10.1007/s12686-018-1001-8.  Abstract

Sørdalen TK, Halvorsen KT, Harrison HB, Ellis CD, Vøllestad LA, Knutsen H, Moland E, Olsen EM. (2018) Harvesting changes mating behaviour in European lobster. Evolutionary Applications, 11 (6), 963-977. Full text

Ellis CD, Hodgson DJ, Griffiths AGF. Evaluating parentage-based tagging for the identification of released hatchery lobsters. (2016 – Unpublished thesis chapter).

Recaptures of hatchery-reared European lobsters (Homarus gammarus) in the wild have provided a proof-of-concept that the release of cultured individuals can enhance the species’ valuable capture fisheries. However, several recent hatchery stocking initiatives are yet to monitor the wild stock for recaptures, in part due to unfavourable methods with which to tag released animals in order to distinguish them from natural conspecifics. To evaluate the suitability of parentage-based tagging to identify hatchery lobsters among admixed populations in the wild, we quantified the power and error of assignment to hatchery parents for stock samples simulated from known microsatellite genotypes. Assignment accuracy was improved where stock samples contained a greater proportion of hatchery individuals. Assignment solely via maternal candidate led to frequent false positives (>9.8% of allocations; >2.1% of natural stock) which increased in proportion to the number of candidates and always resulted in an overestimation of hatchery recaptures. In contrast, parent-pair assignment never overestimated the released component of the sample, greatly reducing false positives (to ≤2.0% of allocations; <0.3% of natural stock) and more accurately estimating hatchery stock size at all ratios of admixture. Parent-pair assignment yielded minor underestimates of the number of hatchery recaptures, but provided ≥86.0% power to distinguish hatchery and natural stock accuracy, and ≥96.8% power whenever hatchery recaptures comprised at least a fifth of sampled stock. Our results show that, where false positives can be controlled, genetic parentage assignment presents a powerful method for monitoring the contribution of released lobsters to admixed wild stocks, and should be used to inform the optimisation and appraisal of hatchery stocking programs.

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