Dr Davina Derous
Dr Davina Derous

Dr Davina Derous


Research Fellow

Accepting PhDs



September 2019-Present 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, Bruges, Belgium



Memberships and Affiliations

Internal Memberships

Co-chair Athena SWAN and Equality and Diveristy comittee for School of Biological Sciences


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

I am a systems physiologist with broad interests in how changes in environment impacts metabolism and leads to physiological changes.  Environmental stressors can affect the capacity of ecosystems and species. Currently indicators of health are used to estimate the impact of stressors on wildlife’s energy stores, survival and reproduction. However, we lack a comprehensive understanding of how changes in energy status drive changes in health and eventually population dynamics. To address this knowledge gap, I investigate how energy metabolism is affected by multiple stressors on a cellular level. I particularly focus on developing new analytical approaches to integrate multi-level and multi-tissue observations to infer physiological dynamics.

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
  • Biodiversity Conservation
  • Metabolic Biochemistry

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

Comparative genomics between cetaceans and land mammals
During evolution, dolphins and whales acquired a number of changes in mammalian metabolic functions which allowed them to colonize the oceans. The most obvious has been a vast increase in their fat stores, blubber, which gave them thermoregulatory advantages. This project develops new phylogenomic methods to assess how biological pathways involved in energy metabolism have been altered during the evolution of cetaceans. We integrate traditional phylogenomic methods, based on estimating mutation rates within genes, and pathway reconstruction analyses to detect change of pathways as they are placed under selection pressure. Collaboration with Dr Marius Wenzel


Novel markers of health in cetaceans
Porpoises, dolphins and whales are exposed to a wide range of human-caused disturbances (e.g. shipping, tourism, naval activities) and this can lead to disrupted foraging, reduced energy available and their health and reproduction. The Population Consequences of Multiple Stressors (PCoMS) is a framework that tries to estimate physiological and behavioural changes associated with exposure to those stressors and the impact on the health of individuals. Currently, blubber thickness is used as a measure of health and nutritional status in cetaceans. This assumes that blubber functions in the same manner as adipose tissue in terrestrial mammals. However, cetaceans have evolved to have thickened blubber which serves as thermoregulation, buoyancy and energy store. This project develops innovative tools to find novel health markers and unravel the complex role of blubber in metabolism.



Past Research

The role of hypothalamic neuropeptide network in regulating tissue sizes in response to diet energy content and composition The aim of this project is to identify genes in the hypothalamus of mice that regulate tissue growth and are responsive to dietary energy content and composition by using an approach of graded energy deficits.

The graded calorie restriction project (from gene to behaviour)The aim of this project is to expose mice to graded levels of calorie restriction to find responses that correlate to the graded nature of the restriction.

Knowledge Exchange

Skype a Scientist

STEM Ambassador

Interview Cellfie magazine

Explorathon 2020 


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

Advertising 2 PhD studentships soon





  • M.Res. Daniel Phillips (Nov 2020 - June 2021):The effects of graded levels of calorie restriction : Transcriptomic response and alternative splicing in the C57BL/6 mouse
  • Honours - B.Sc. Anna Kebke (September 2020 - December 2020): Untargeted metabolomic analysis of a wild bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncates) population based on their health status
  • M.Sc. Jessica Behr (April 2020-July 2020): A meta-analysis of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP) in cetaceans
  • M.Sc. Lucy Baldwin (April 2020-July 2020): A meta-analysis of stress hormone levels as a marker of health in wild and captive cetaceans
  • M.Res. Stephanie Summers (Sept 2018 - April 2019): The Impact of Short-Term Graded Calorie Restriction on Melanocortin-3 receptor (MC3R) Knockout Mice

Funding and Grants

  • 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”
  • British Society for Neuroendocrinology project support grantCo-I (£7k, Sept 2020-Aug 2021): “Global transcriptional changes in the arcuate nucleus underlying the central resistance to steroid hormone feedback in polycystic ovary syndrome”
  • Royal Society grantCo-I (£19.8k, Sept 2020-August 2021): “More larvae, more waste, less food: unravelling the interactions between nutrition and toxicity in crowded developmental environments”
  • 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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