Principle Investigators - Prof. Tom Cross, Dr Phil McGinnity

The Molecular Genetics of Aquatic Animals group is involved in research on a wide range of topics, with current emphasis on Genetic Stock Identification of exploited fish species and on conservation genetics of endangered species.  Throughout the past two decades they have done research on more than 30 species of animals using almost every molecular marker developed for the purpose of population studies.  Some examples include salmon, cod, turbot, halibut, Icelandic redfish, orange roughy, box jellyfish, ommastrephid squid, abalone, oysters, mussels, golden eagles riparian bush rabbits and Bermudan skink to name just a few.  In the past 2 years alone, over €3.5 million has been captured in grants, and several additional projects have been submitted to various funding bodies and are awaiting evaluation.  Much of the recent research has been carried out on Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar), supported by the Marine Institute’s NDP program and more recently, the Beaufort Marine Research award in fish population genetics.  This work has been largely focused on the establishment of a genetic baseline for all Irish salmon populations for Genetic Stock Identification (GSI) of commercial mixed fisheries.  As a result of this ongoing study, Ireland now has the most extensive Atlantic salmon database of its kind, and this has put UCC at the forefront of a major international project (SALSEA-merge) as a leading authority in this area.  Furthermore, important salmon fisheries management decisions have been made at a governmental level on the basis of the expertise of the population genetics group in AFDC.  The group is also involved in a key project on the development of an Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) aquaculture industry in Ireland, along with lead partners NUIG and funded by the Marine Institute.  Other recent fish related projects include a forensic fish identification exercise performed for the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, where the genetics group established that wild salmon offered for sale by a prominent Irish retailer was in fact farmed in origin.  This led to a high profile legal action with Dr. Eileen Dillane and Dr. Phil Mcginnity providing expert testimony.  In another study, funded by the Norwegian Research Council, the genetics group is investigating the impact of escaped farmed salmon on the genetics of wild populations.  In 2010 the INTEREG funded Celtic sea trout project (partnered and led by the University of Bangor) will commence which will use genetics investigate where exactly sea trout go when in the sea and look at their ecology, environmental pressures and how stocks are linked.  A number of other proposals are in the pipeline with partners in National agencies (Marine Institute, Central fisheries board) and International organisations.  

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