Dr Deborah Dawson

Department of Animal and Plant Sciences

Manager of the NERC Environmental Omics Visitor Facility

MOL - Deborah Dawson
d.a.dawson@sheffield.ac.uk
+44 114 222 0106

Full contact details

Dr Deborah Dawson
Department of Animal and Plant Sciences
Alfred Denny Building
Western Bank
Sheffield
S10 2TN
Profile

I have been the Manager of the NERC Environmental Omics Visitor Facility since it was established in 1998. The facility supports genetic studies of the natural world, within NERCs environmental remit. Any UK researcher can apply for access to our facilities, consumables, training and expertise (projects do not need to be NERC funded). 

Each year we support ten to twenty projects at Sheffield. These cover a wide range of studies and techniques. We have supported over 250 projects from 56 institutes and provided training for over 200 PhD students. Over 500 publications have resulted from work we have supported in Sheffield, including articles in Nature and Science.

In addition to managing the facility, our staff and supervising facility-supported projects, I lead several research projects.

Research interests
  • Conservation genetics
  • Mating systems and reproductive behaviour
  • Avian sex chromosomes and genomic architecture
  • Development of markers and techniques to enhance studies of molecular ecology
  • Studies of historical and contemporary population structure & genetic bottlenecks
  • Identification of species, hybrids, molecular systematics and phylogenetics
  • Investigations of species diversity and ecosystems using environmental DNA (eDNA)
  • Studies of wildlife using non-invasive samples
  • Studies of diet and habitat quality using next-generation sequencing of faecal samples
  • Assessments of river health using eDNA samples
  • Development of markers and techniques to enhance studies of molecular ecology
  • Mating systems & behaviour
  • Genomic architecture and investigation of the avian sex chromosomes
  • Studies of historical and contemporary population structure & genetic bottlenecks
  • Identification of species, hybrids, molecular systematics & phylogenetics

Research projects and collaborators

Year Project title Collaborators
2020 National COVID-19 Wastewater Epidemiology Surveillance Programme (N-WESP) PI Andrew Singer (CEH) heads a group of CoIs from around the UK
2020 River Reconnections Dr Ed Shaw (Don Catchment Rivers Trust), Dr Paul Parsons (UoS)
2020 Falcon Forensics Dr Lucy Webster (SASA, Scottish Government, Edinburgh), Lucy Knowles (UoS)
2019 Salmon of Steel
2018 Otter distribution in the Peak District 
  • Darcie Cowap (UoS)
  • Dr Douglas Ross (UoS volunteer)
2017 The diet of urban and rural otters
  • Lucy Knowles (UoS), Dr Douglas Ross (UoS volunteer)
  • Angela Maccarinelli (Dept of Archaeology, UoS)
  • John Rochester (Academic Unit of Medical Education, UoS)
  • Barry Soames (microscopic photography expert)
  • Dr Nicky Rivers, Paul Richards, Sara Blackburn & volunteers
  • Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust
2016 The origins of badgers on the Isle of Arran
  • Tom Bellis (University of Leeds)
    Roger Cottis (Scottish Badgers)
    Dr Hannah Dugdale (University of Leeds)
2016 A DNA-based survey of otters in Sheffield
  • Amy Withers (University of Leeds)
  • Dr Nicky Rivers, Paul Richards, Sara Blackburn & volunteers
  • Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust,
  • Dr Douglas Ross (UoS volunteer)
  • Dr Hannah Dugdale (University of Leeds)
2015 A DNA study of the Sheffield Peregrines
Publications

Journal articles

Research group
Name Date Status Institute Project title
Lucy Knowles 2020 Research Technician University of Sheffield Falcon Forensics
Dr Paul Parsons 2020 Research Technician University of Sheffield River Reconnections
Sara Peixoto 2019 Erasmus+ Internee Visiting from the University of Porto, Portugal Developing eDNA approaches to monitor biodiversity in the waterways surrounding Sheffield
Darcie Cowap 2018 - 2019 MRes Student Dept of Animal & Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield A DNA-based assessment of otter numbers and seasonal movement in the Peak District
Lucy Knowles 2017 - 2018 MRes Student Dept of Animal & Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield A comparison of the diet of urban and rural otters using next-generation sequencing
Amy Withers 2017 MSc Student
Joint supervisor: Dr Hannah Dugdale
Visiting from the University of Leeds The distribution of Eurasian otters (Lutra lutra) on the river Don in Sheffield
(In collaboration with the Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust)
Tom Bellis 2017 MSc Student
Joint supervisor: Dr Hannah Dugdale
Visiting from the University of Leeds Genetic origins of the badger population on the Isle of Arran, Scotland
(In collaboration with Scottish Badgers)
Brian Hanotte 2017 Undergraduate Summer Volunteer Visiting from Bangor University, Wales A DNA study of the diet of Pine Marten (Martes martes) on the Isle of Skye, Scotland
Dr Sabuj Bhattacharyya 2016 - 2017 British Commonwealth Fellow Visiting Sheffield from the Indian Institute of Science Pika as an indicator species to monitor climatic oscillation in mountain ecosystem
Gracie Adams 2015 Undergraduate Summer Volunteer Dept of Biomedical Sciences, University of Sheffield Assessment of microsatellite markers for parentage and population studies of the Asian elephant Elephas maximus
Teresa Santos 2013 - 2014 Erasmus Research Internee Visiting from the University of Aveiro, Portugal Assessing genetic markers for studying and comparing shrew populations and mating systems.
Filipa Martins 2011 Leonardo Scholarship Visiting from the University of Lisbon, Portugal Genetic studies of the Australian Brush-turkey Alectura lathami (Megapodiidae, AVES)
Ged Poland 2010 MSc Student
Joint Supervisor: Dr Umberto Albarella
Department of Archaeology, University of Sheffield Assigning sex to avian osteological remains: a review of current methods and an investigation into a novel, independent, biomolecular method.
Anna Bone 2010 Undergraduate Summer Volunteer Visiting from the University of Oxford Assessment of microsatellite markers for parentage and population studies of birds of prey
Alex Ball 2009 MSc Student
Joint Supervisor: Prof Terry Burke
Dept of Animal & Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield. Recombination levels and gene order in the zebra finch homologues of the chicken chromosomes Gga1, Gga2 and Gga9
Teaching interests

I supervise and support facility-funded projects and provide one-to-one training as required. I am keen to encourage and facilitate knowledge exchange.

I manage and contribute to training courses including the quarterly course introducing Molecular Ecology Techniques - in which I present lectures covering marker development, DNA profiling, genetic sex-typing, data validation and an introduction to parentage and population analyses - and Population Genomics.

Teaching activities

I take part in numerous outreach events during the year to showcase the work we do at the University.

Presentations in 2020 (postponed): 

13th March 2020 - Discovery Night, EVENT UoS, Who dung it, Fishing for DNA, Amazing Otters

20th October 2020 - GHS, Grindleford, TALK - The Return of the Otter to the Peak District 

16th November 2020 - Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, Darley Dale, TALK - The Return of the Otter

Past events:

Sheffield Waterfront Festival at Victoria Quays, Sheffield (2019).

Discovery Night at the University of Sheffield (2018 & 2019).

Nature Detectives at Weston Park Museum, Sheffield (2018).

The Sheffield Peregrine Evening with the Sheffield Bird Study Group (2017 & 2018).

Sheffield's Wardsend Cemetery Bioblitz August 2017 and August 2018.

Peregrine Network events, including BirdFair at Rutland Water (2018 & 2019).     

Our studies of otters have invoked a lot of public interest. I have presented lectures discussing our research on otters to the public at numerous venues. I have also contributed to articles in local and national newspapers and been interviewed on BBC Radio4, RadioSheffield and RadioDerby.

Professional activities
  • 1996–98:  Research Associate, Department of Biology (Zoology), University of Leicester
  • 1996-97: Research Associate, Institute of Evolution, University of Haifa, Israel
  • 1994–96: Research Assistant, Department of Zoology, University of Leicester
  • 1991–94: Research Technician, Department of Genetics, University of Leicester
See also

Downloads

  • Microsatellite libraries list (Word Document, 61kB)