frog on a leaf


University of Hull awarded €2m to study impact of climate change on cold-blooded animals

The impact of climate change on cold-blooded animals such as frogs and fish is being explored at the University of Hull thanks to €2m of new funding.

The project, led by Dr Katharina Wollenberg Valero, will investigate how heat stress caused by climate change is impacting on the aquatic larvae of cold-blooded species.

The research is supported by almost €2m of European Research Council funding, as part of its prestigious ERC Consolidator grant scheme.

kat valero with a tree branch
Dr Katharina Wollenberg Valero

Dr. Valero, a Senior Lecturer based in the Department of Biological & Marine Sciences, studies the molecular effects of climate change.

She said: “If you think of animals that aren’t mammals, their development starts as single cells that are entirely exposed to the elements.

“Given that there are a lot of such animals, for example fish, frogs, and invertebrates, I wanted to know what happens during this critical stage of their development if they are exposed to abrupt changes in their environment such as heat waves.”

Key questions which the study hopes to answer include:

  • How does heat stress, caused by climate change, influence important processes in cells such as mutation rates?
  • Do different species of cold-blooded animals respond to climate stress in the same way, or do they use different genes for this?
  • Can larvae communicate a stressed state to each other via chemicals through the water, and can this amplify negative outcomes?

The funding is part of the EU’s current research and innovation programme, Horizon Europe, and the awards are judged by a panel of internationally renowned scientists with a success rate of around just 12%.

The award will allow Dr. Valero to expand her team of researchers at the University of Hull, and puts the institution at the forefront of biological research into the as yet unknown molecular consequences of climate change.

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