Mr Thomas Gibson


I have always had a keen interest in the natural environment, how human activities are degrading it and what solutions can overcome this. This led me to study for a BSc (Hons) in Marine Biology at Plymouth University (2012 to 2015) where I obtained a good foundation in the biological sciences. During this time I volunteered extensively at the university’s Marine Biology and Ecology Research Centre. To further my understanding of the applied aspects of marine ecology I then studied for an MSc in Applied Marine and Fisheries Ecology at the University of Aberdeen (2015 to 2016). This gave me an understanding of fisheries management and associated quantitative techniques. My thesis assessed the biotope classification of the Fladen Ground, northern North Sea, using macroinfaunal data. I conducted this work with a marine consultant from Hartley Anderson Ltd. Following this I worked for Marine Scotland Science’s Inshore Fisheries Team at the Marine Laboratory in Aberdeen (2016 to 2017). This gave me experience of fisheries surveys, data analysis for stock assessment and the manipulation and processing of large spatial datasets. I have decided to further my interest in applied marine ecology and biodiversity science by undertaking a PhD in the exciting field of environmental DNA analysis at Bangor Universities’ Molecular Ecology and Fisheries Genetics Laboratory.  


My PhD project is a collaboration between the Molecular Ecology and Fisheries Genetics Laboratory and Natural Resources Wales (NRW), a Welsh Government sponsored body. The project is supported by the European Union’s European Social Fund through the Welsh Government via a Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarship ( The aim of the project is to develop an environmental DNA (eDNA) based survey method for estuarine fish to enhance the current fish surveys which NRW carries out as part of their estuarine monitoring programme. Environmental DNA is broadly defined as DNA extracted from environmental samples e.g. sediment or water, rather than directly from an organism. Previous work has shown it has the potential to provide a sensitive and non-invasive technique for surveying aquatic biodiversity. During the project I will be using metabarcoding, a method of identifying multiple species from their mitochondrial sequences, to assess the full biodiversity of fish in estuaries around Wales. The main thrust of the project is to develop and validate suitable field and laboratory methods for eDNA sample collection, processing and analysis. In addition I will determine appropriate eDNA survey designs for estuaries, which are hydrodynamically complex, and identify appropriate bioinformatics pipelines and data analysis methods. The final goal is to compare the biodiversity information obtained from eDNA, and practical considerations e.g. cost, against the currently used methods. Ultimately this will determine if eDNA can be used by NRW to inform policy, and to improve the conservation of biodiversity in Welsh estuaries. 

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