Dr Deborah Dawson

  

Contact Details
Telephone: +44 (0)114 222 0106 Email: d.a.dawson@sheffield.ac.uk

  

Career
1998–current

Manager of the NERC Biomolecular Analysis Facility (Sheffield),

Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield

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 Researcher, Department of Genetics, University of Leicester

    

Research Interests

•Conservation genetics
•Investigations of species diversity and ecosystems using environmental DNA (eDNA)
•Studies of wildlife using non-invasive samples
•Studies of diet and habitat quality using the 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 & contemporary population structure & genetic bottlenecks
•Identification of species, hybrids, molecular systematics & phylogenetics

  

The NERC Biomolecular Analysis Facility at Sheffield (NBAF-S)

I have been the Manager of the NERC Biomolecular Analysis Facility at Sheffield since it was established in 1998.
 
The Facility supports genetic studies of the natural world, such as behavioural ecology and population structure. Any UK researcher can apply for access to our facilities, consumables, training and expertise, providing the project to be supported is within NERCs environmental remit (projects do not need to be NERC funded). We have supported over 200 projects and provided training for over 100 PhD students. Over 200 publications have resulted from Facility supported work, including many in Nature and Science.

   

Current projects supported at NBAF-Sheffield

During 2017, twenty projects were approved and are being supported. We have supported over 200 projects since 1998.

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

       

Research Projects:

Date started Project title Collaborators
2018 Developing eDNA approaches to monitor biodiversity in the waterways surrounding Sheffield
2017 Otter distribution in the Peak District  Dr Douglas Ross
2017 The diet of urban and rural otters

Dr Douglas Ross

2016 Origins of badgers on the Isle of Arran Scottish Badgers,
Dr Hannah Dugdale (University of Leeds)
2016 A DNA-based survey of otters in Sheffield Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust,
Dr Hannah Dugdale (University of Leeds)
2015 A DNA study of the Sheffield Peregrines Sheffield Bird Study Group
2015 New genetic markers and methods to sex-type birds

    

Teaching

I supervise and support Facility-funded projects and provide one-to-one training as required. I am keen to enable, encourage and facilitate knowledge transfer. I manage and contribute to training courses, including the quarterly course introducing Molecular Ecology Techniques in which I present lectures on an genotyping techniques, genetic sex-typing, data validation and an introduction to parentage and population analyses.

    

Outreach

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

Discovery Night at the University of Sheffield.

Nature Detectives at Weston Park Museum, Sheffield.

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

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

Peregrine Network events, including BirdFair at Rutland Water.

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.

    

Past and Present Group Members

Name Date Status Institute Project title
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

   

Selected Publications

I have published over 100 papers in peer reviewed journals.

For my full publications list please click here.

Bhattacharyya S, Dawson DA, Hipperson H, Ishtiaq F (2018) A diet rich in C3 plants reveals the sensitivity of an alpine mammal to climate change. Molecular Ecology. In press.

Moura RF, Dawson DA, Nogueira DM (2017) The use of microsatellite markers in Neotropical studies of wild birds: a literature review. Annals of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences, 89, 145-154.

Dawson DA, dos Remedios N, Horsburgh GJ (2016) A new marker based on the avian spindlin gene that is able to sex most birds, including species problematic to sex with CHD markers. Zoo Biology, 35, 533–545. [Open Access]

Dawson DA, Brekke P, dos Remedios N, Horsburgh GJ (2015) A marker suitable for sex-typing birds from degraded samples. Conservation Genetics Resources, 7, 337–343. [Open Access].

Dawson DA, Ball AD, Spurgin LG, et al. (2013) High-utility conserved avian microsatellite markers enable parentage and population studies across a wide range of species. BMC Genomics, 14, 176. [Open Access]

Dawson DA, Åkesson M, Burke T, Pemberton JM, Slate J, Hansson B (2007) Gene order and recombination in homologous regions of the chicken and a passerine bird. Molecular Biology and Evolution, 24, 1537–1552.