Dr Davina Derous

Dr Davina Derous
Dr Davina Derous
Dr Davina Derous


Senior Research Fellow

Accepting PhDs

Email Address
Office Address
1.05 Cruickshank Building
Old Aberdeen Campus
St. Machar Drive
AB24 3UU

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School of Biological Sciences


Sept 2022-present Senior Research Fellow, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK

September 2019-Aug 2022 Independent Research Fellow, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK

July 2017-August 2019 Post-Doc Research Fellow, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK

March 2017-June 2017 Research Assistant, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK

2013-2017 PhD Biological Sciences, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK

2011-2013 MSc Nutrition and Health, Wageningen University and Research Centre, Wageningen, the Netherlands

2008-2011 BSc Nutrition and Dietetics, Vives - University of Applied Sciences, Bruges, Belgium



Memberships and Affiliations

Internal Memberships

School level:
2019-2023 Co-chair Athena SWAN committee
2019-2023 Co-chair Equality and Diversity committee

University level:
2019-2023 Equality and Diversity Forum

External Memberships

Member of the Society for Experimental Biology
Member of the Royal Society of Biology
Fellow of the Royal Statistical Society

Editorial and peer review activities: 
Review editor for Frontiers in Physiology (integrative physiology) (2020-present)
Peer-reviewed for several journals (verified by publons profile




Research Overview


Welcome to the Derous lab! We focus on how environmental stressors impact the metabolism of species and in turn can lead to physiological changes. We take a system wide approach and analyse changes across different biological scales by:

  • Using high-throughput molecular assays to assess changes on a cellular level (e.g., genes, proteins, metabolites) across different organs of species and use network biology approaches to gain further insights into the complex regulation of molecules.
  • Measuring changes on a physiological level with a variety of different methods (e.g., hormones, sugar levels)
  • Assessing whether this is reflected on a whole-body level of an organism (e.g., behaviour, reproductive output).

Research Areas

Accepting PhDs

I am currently accepting PhDs in Biological and Environmental Sciences, Nutrition and Health.

Please get in touch if you would like to discuss your research ideas further.

Email Me

Biological and Environmental Sciences

Accepting PhDs

Nutrition and Health

Accepting PhDs

Research Specialisms

  • Physiology
  • Animal Health
  • Metabolic Biochemistry
  • Biological Sciences
  • Endocrinology

Our research specialisms are based on the Higher Education Classification of Subjects (HECoS) which is HESA open data, published under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International licence.

Current Research

Evolutionary adaptions in key metabolic processes

Metabolism is central to the day-to-day functioning of a species and certain animals have evolved specific mechanism to deal with extreme/harsh environments. Evolution is a dynamic process that happened over many generations and understanding those key changes on a molecular level allows us to ask important questions of how animals may respond to stressors and what it may mean for their conservation. For example, how nutrient shortage caused by anthrophonic stressors may have a higher detrimental impact in one species compared to another.



The role of blubber in cetaceans

Porpoises, dolphins, and whales (i.e., cetaceans) are exposed to many challenges in their environment. These challenges, referred to as environmental stressors, are often caused by humans and are emerging as conservation threats for many cetacean species. The health and nutritional state of cetaceans is assessed through how much fat they have in their blubber (fat layer under the skin). However, cetaceans have evolved to have thickened blubber and the stored fat in the blubber is not only used as an energy source. Blubber also plays a key role in thermoregulation and buoyancy control. Closing this knowledge gap in blubber metabolism is of key importance, especially as a low amount of fat could lead to fewer offspring being born. We, therefore, need to understand how environmental stressors influence blubber biology and particularly how blubber signals energy availability to other organs.



Using non-model organisms to combat human diseases

Uncovering the biological mechanisms behind human diseases (e.g., diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular diseases) and then identify a “molecular fingerprint” associated with those diseases is the first step towards translational medicine. Despite the recent advances in human diseases, we still struggle to find effective ways to treat them. Some non-model species have remarkable capacities to deal with for examples wounds or large amounts of fat. By using comparative physiology, we can identify unique processes in non-model species that can help us develop treatments for human diseases. 

Screenshot 2022-12-16 144225.png


Impact of diet or nutrient availability on reproduction trade-offs

The optimal allocation of energy resources to maintain fitness levels depends on nutrient availability. When food is scares, an animal may conserve their energy reserves to increase their current survival until more food can be found. A way to do this is to trade-off between survival and reproduction. Many species have shown that when food is limited, their reproduction rate reduces. The exact mechanisms regulating these processes is still not entirely clear.


My current supervision areas are: Biological and Environmental Sciences, Nutrition and Health.


  • PhD. Alexandra Tranganida (October 2022 - present): Using molecular approaches to uncover how blubber is regulated under different physiological challenges in stranded cetaceans. Leverhulme funded
  • PhD. Devonne Gardiner (October 2022 - present): Using molecular approaches to investigate the control of feeding-fasting cycle of baleen whales. Leverhulme funded
  • PhD. Francesca Gray (April 2022 - present): Flying sentinels: using a long-distance migratory bird to assess exposure to POPs over two continents and their health consequences. QUADRAT funded


  • M.Sc (research). Stephen Lane (Sept 2021 - November 2022): Molecular mechanisms underlying parasite-induced lifespan extension in a social wasp.
  • M.Sc (research). Daniel Phillips (Nov 2020 - June 2021):The effects of graded levels of calorie restriction : Transcriptomic response and alternative splicing in the C57BL/6 mouse.
  • M.Sc (research). Stephanie Summers (Sept 2018 - April 2019): The Impact of Short-Term Graded Calorie Restriction on Melanocortin-3 receptor (MC3R) Knockout Mice.

Funding and Grants

  • University of Aberdeen Grand Academy: Bid development - Co-I (£9,9k Apr 2023 - Sept 2023): "Valuable in death? Assessing molecular changes through blubber tissue decomposition in marine mammals with implications for use of stranded animals in research"
  • Leverhulme Trust grant - PI (£215k, Sept 2022-Sept 2026): "Characterising the impact of environmental stressors on cetacean metabolism"
  • University of Aberdeen Grand Academy: Internal Pump-Prime funding for interdisciplinary research - PI (£10.6k, Nov 2021-Oct 2022): "Using the rapid regenerative response of the beadlet anemone (Actinia equina) as model system for human wound healing"
  • University of Aberdeen Grand Academy: Internal Pump-Prime funding for interdisciplinary research - PI (£9.8k, June 2021-Dec 2021): "A holistic approach towards identifying the phenotypic plasticity and resilience response to environmental stress in the intertidal zone"
  • Marine Alliance Science Technology Scotland “Emerging from Lockdown” Award - PI (£4.6k, May 2021-Dec 2021): "Proteomic approach to characterise the functional differences between blubber layers in harbour porpoises"
  • NERC Environmental Omics Facility (NEOF) Early Career Researcher pilot grant - PI (£8.9k, May 2021-Dec 2021): "Towards identifying the epigenomic basis of resilience to environmental stress"
  • The Icelandic Research Fund Project grant - Co-I (£306k, Sept 2021-Aug 2024): “The role of ecosystem stability for the ecological specialisation of marine top predators”
  • ACU Early Career Conference Grant to attend the 6th International Marine Conservation Congress (June 2020)
  • University of Aberdeen Grant Academy: core facility vouchers - PI (£2.6k, Feb 2020-Jul 2020): "Linking the energy status of stranded cetaceans to their cause of death"
  • Centre for Genome Enabled Biology and Medicine PhD studentship (£66.5k, Sept 2013 - Feb 2017): "Multi-tissue transcriptomic analysis of graded calorie restriction in the mouse"

Teaching Responsibilities

  • Comparative Physiology 1 BI2510 (2022-present)
  • Comparative Physiology 2 BI3512 (2022-present, course coordinator)
  • Marine Biodiversity ZO4820 (2021-present)
  • Supervision UGT/PGT/PGR/PhD student projects

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Contributions to Journals

Working Papers