Tom Jenkins – University of Exeter PhD Student

Tom is a geneticist and marine biologist who trained at the University of Wales, Swansea (BSc Marine Biology) and Imperial College, London (MRes Biodiversity Informatics and Genomics), before taking up a PhD at the University of Exeter at their Streatham campus. Tom is interested in using novel molecular tools to study patterns of biodiversity and population connectivity in marine organisms, and particularly in adopting next-generation sequencing technology as the field of molecular ecology moves towards a genome-wide approach.  The aim of Tom’s PhD is to assess population connectivity in the UK and western Europe and use this information to evaluate the connectivity of Marine Protected Areas.  In the first stage of his PhD, Tom has reviewed studies for a range of taxa around the British Isles and surrounding waters to identify any trends in genetic diversity and population structure.  The results of this meta-analysis indicate which taxa are under-represented and provide a platform from which to identify candidate species to assess population connectivity.  Throughout the second stage of Tom’s PhD, he will then be using genetic markers and biophysical modelling to assess population connectivity in these candidate species, one of which is the European lobster (Homarus gammarus).

In marine species, inference of population structure, spatial connectivity and stock boundaries has been challenging because pelagic dispersal weakens genetic differentiation and traditional molecular markers have provided only limited resolution. Fortunately, recent advances in sequencing technology have allowed the genotyping of thousands of markers across the genome to become possible for non-model organisms.  Tom’s study will use a high-resolution genomic approach to investigate the genetic structure and connectivity of regional stocks of the European lobster, whose economically and ecologically important populations have shown little genetic differentiation when previously assessed using lower-resolution molecular methods (Ellis et al., 2017). His results will provide a much clearer picture of the extent of larval dispersal, localised recruitment and the size and spatial ranges of lobster populations, enabling regional fisheries managers to ensure that the conservation measures they impose are appropriate for the persistence of lobster stocks and the prosperity of their fisheries.


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

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