Dr Pierre Bize
I am an evolutionary biologist with keen interests in physiology, life-history theories and behavioural ecology. I use carefully thought experiments to address proximate and ultimate sources of variation in performance measured at levels ranging from cells to individuals and populations.
Sept 2013 Senior Lecturer, University of Aberdeen
2008 - 2013 Junior group leader, University of Lausanne, Switzerland, with funding from the Swiss NSF to investigate the ‘Importance of mitochondrial uncoupling and telomere dynamics in the free radical theory of ageing’.
2005 - 2008 Post-doctoral fellow in the groups of Prof Pat Monaghan and Prof Neil Metcalfe, investigating telomere dynamics and ageing in birds. University of Glasgow. Fellowship funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation.
2004- 2005 Post-doctoral research associate in Dr Philipp Heeb’s group, investigating the role of skin UV coloration in parent-offspring interaction. University of Lausanne, Switzerland.
2000 - 2003 Ph.D. University of Berne, Switzerland entitled ‘Costs of parasitism and host anti-parasite strategies: Case studies in the Alpine swift Apus melba in response to infestation by the louse fly Crataerina melbae’ and supervised by Prof Heinz Richner and Prof Alexandre Roulin.
2000 M.Sci. from the University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland, in Ecology & Evolution
1999 B.Sc. from the University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland, in Ecology & Systematics
Main Society Positions
- 2014- Review editors for Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution
- 2010-2014 Secretary of the Swiss Zoological Society
- Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour
- British Ecological Society
- European Society for Evolutionary Biology
- Nos Oiseaux, Société Romande pour l’Etude et la Protection des Oiseaux
- Swiss Zoological Society
- Life history theories
- Metabolism, mitochondrial function & oxidative stress
- Personality traits & cognition
- Signalling in sexual and social contexts
Biological and Environmental Sciences
The common thread that runs through my different research topics is the mitochondrion.
Mitochondria are small organelles present in most animal cells that are responsible to convert food into cellular energy. Hence, mitochondria functions are vital to support growth, reproduction and body maintenance, and ultimately for a healthy living. My current research aims to better understand (1) the sources of variation in mitochondrial function and (2)their consequences at the phenotypic level.
1. Sources of variation in mitochondrial function
A fascinating aspect of mitochondria biology is that they possess their own genome that is inherited through the mother only, whereas the nuclear genome is inherited from both parents. Because ultimately mitochondrial function relies on a ‘machinery’ with pieces that are encoded both in the mitochondrial and nuclear genomes, key questions are whether some mito-nuclear genome combination leads to more efficient/deficient mitochondria, and whether epigenetic interaction between these two genomes helps resolve conflicts.
To address these questions, I have developed a unique study system of four experimental lines of wild-derived voles with distinct combinations of mitochondrial and nuclear genomes (nuclearmitochondrial: CC, CW, WC, WW). This is allowing me to perform the most comprehensive study so far in a mammal species on effects of these two genomes on traits ranging from epigenetic variation in the mitochondrial and nuclear genomes and mitochondrial functions to the whole organism metabolism and metabolic health.
Main collaborator: Dr Antoine Stier (Turku), Dr Tyler Stevenson (Glasgow)
2. Linking mitochondrial function to the phenotype
Mitochondria & life history theories
Life histories describe how organisms grow, mature, reproduce and age, and substantial evidence has now accumulated that most of the variation in life histories of mammals and birds falls along a slow-fast continuum. Organisms with slow paces of life are characterised by slow growth, delayed maturity, low reproductive investments and extended lifespan, whereas organisms with fast paces of life possess the opposite combination of traits. The absence of alternative combinations of these traits implies constraints on the diversification of life histories. Besides the production of cellular energy vital to ensure growth, reproduction and maintenance, mitochondria are also producing reactive oxygen production (ROS) that can damage the cell and hasten ageing. Hence, variation in mitochondrial function may play a key role in shaping animal life history trajectories.
I am investigating the links between mitochondria, oxidative stress and life history trajectories in various animal species, both in the lab and in the field.
Main collaborators: Dr Antoine Stier (Turku) and Dr François Criscuolo (Strasbourg)
Mitochondria & behavioural and cognitive traits
Inter-individual variation in cognitive abilities, such as learning, has been related to variation in reproductive success in the wild. However, whether learning has a causal influence on reproductive success is an open question. Notably, it remains unclear how ageing, cognition and reproductive performance are inter-connected. Dysfunction in mitochondrial function with age can lead to a gradual accumulation of oxidative damage in the brain and muscles, which in turn may account for a spurious association between cognitive abilities and (reproductive) performance. A causal association between cognitive abilities and reproductive performance can arise through a better exploitation of the habitat. Because dietary antioxidants can mitigate cognitive ageing and improve reproduction, an alternative hypothesis is that cognitive abilities are key attributes allowing individuals to better exploit their habitat, increase reproductive success and live longer and healthier.
I am addressing this topic by measuring mitochondrial function, oxidative stress, cognitive abilities and reproductive performance in wild bird populations.
Main collaborators: Dr Blandine Doligez (Lyon) and Dr Laure Cauchard (Montreal)
Current post-doctoral fellows and PhD students
2018-23 Dr Laure Cauchard (2-year fellowship from the Canadian Science Foundation & 2.5-year Marie Curie Fellowship. Project title: Testing the importance of oxidative stress and dietary antioxidants in linking cognitive traits and fitness in free living animals
Ph.D. students, main advisor (3 to 4-year project)
2020-24 Michela Dumas. DTP University of Ottawa. Jointly supervised with Dr Julien Martin, University of Ottawa, Canada. Project title: Sexual selection and mate choice in a species with little apparent sexual dimorphism, the Alpine swift
2018-22 Francesca Gray. NERC QUADRAT DTP. Jointly supervised with Dr Rory Doherty, Queen's University Belfast, and Dr Christoph Meier, Swiss Ornithological Station. Project title: Flying sentinels: using a long-distance migratory bird to assess exposure to POPs over two continents and their health consequences
2018-22 Christina Biamis. NERC QUADRAT DTP. Jointly supervised with Prof Gary Hardiman, Queen's University Belfast, and Prof Paul Thompson, University of Aberdeen. Project title: Actions of endocrine-disrupting chemicals in seabirds
2018-22 Mark Williamson. BBSRC EASTBIO DTP. Jointly supervised with Dr Cath Jones, University of Aberdeen, and Dr Leighton Pritchard, James Hutton Institute. Project title: Interactions of microbiota and invasive molluscan crop pests: impacts on food security and ecosystem services in a changing world
2018-21 Tracey Hammer. IDEX DTP, Strasbourg. Jointly supervised with Dr Jean-Patrice Robin and Dr Vincent Viblanc, University of Strasbourg, France. Project title: Impact of social and environmental pressures on King penguins’ quality and fitness
2017-21 Alexandra Jebb. BBSRC EASTBIO DTP. Jointly supervised with Dr Julien Martin, University of Aberdeen. Project title: Effects of early and adult environment conditions on the biology of long-lived species: testing the predictive adaptive response hypothesis.
Past students and post-doctoal researchers
2011-14 Dr Vincent Viblanc (one-year fellowship from the Fyssen Foundation, France; two-year fellowship from the AXA Foundation); Vincent is now a permanent researcher at the CNRS, Strasbourg, France
2014-15 Dr Luiza Duarte (one-year fellowship from the CAPES Brazilian Science Foundation)
2013-16 Quentin Schull. Doctoral School of Strasbourg. Jointly supervised with Dr Jean-Patrice Robin and Dr Vincent Viblanc, University of Strasbourg, France. Quentin is now permanent researcher at IFREMER, Sete, France.
2011-15 Charlotte Récapet. Doctoral School of Lyon. Jointly supervised with Dr Blandine Doligez, University of Lyon, France. Charlotte is now an Assistant Professor at the University of Pau, France.
2009-14 Mikko Lehto Hürlimann. Swiss NSF. University of Lausanne, Switzerland. Mikko is now a permanent researcher at Agroscope, Switzerland.
Ph.D. visiting student, (1-year project) | 1 student
2014-15 Barbara Henning. One year PhD sandwich from the CAPES Brazilian Science Foundation. Barbara is currently a post-doctoral researcher at State University Campinas, Brazil.
M.S. students, main advisor (6 to 12-month project) | >40 students so far
B.S. and Hons. students, main advisor (3 to 4-month project) | >40 students so far
Funding and Grants
As Principal Investigator
2019 -23 NERC, QUADRAT DTP, PhD studentship
2018 Carnegie Trust, research incentive grant
2018 Grants Academy, University of Aberdeen
2015 British Ornithological Union
2015 Percy Sladen Memorial Fund, research grant
2014 British Ecological Society, research grant
2014 Royal Society of London, research grant
2014 Carnegie Trust, travel grant
2013 Fondation Agassiz, University of Lausanne, research grant
2012 - 13 Swiss National Science Foundation, SNF research grant
2009 - 12 Swiss National Science Foundation, SNF research grant
2005 -08 Swiss National Science Foundation, SNF post-doctoral fellowship
Asoociated as Co-Investigator
2021-24 French NSF (ANR Agence Nationale pour la Recherche). PI: B.Doligez, CNRS Lyon 1, France
2020 - 23 EU Horizon 2020, Marie Curie PDR fellowship awared to Dr Laure Cauchard to come to Aberdeen
2019 - 23 NERC, QUADRAT DTP, PhD studentship: PI: G. Hardiman, Queen University Belfast
2019 - 22 International programme to support scientific cooperation (CNRS-PICS) between France and UK. CNRS, France. PI: Dr J.-P. Robin, CNRS-Strasbourg, France
2018 - 22 BBSRC, EASTBIO DTP, PhD studentship: PI: C. Jones, University of Aberdeen
2017 -21 BBSRC, EASTBIO DTP, PhD studentship: PI: J. Martin, University of Aberdeen
2016 - 18 Institut Polaire Français Paul Emile Victor, France. PI: Dr J-P Robin, CNRS-Strasbourg, France.
2015 - 16 Institut Polaire Français Paul Emile Victor, France. PI: Dr J-P Robin Robin, CNRS-Strasbourg, France.
2011 - 14 Institut Polaire Français Paul Emile Victor, France. PI: Dr J-P Robin Robin, CNRS-Strasbourg, France.
2010 - 13 International programme to support scientific cooperation (CNRS-PICS) between France and Switzerland. PI: Dr F Criscuolo, CNRS-Strasbourg, France.
2010 Projets Exploratoires Pluridisciplinaires (PEPS). CNRS, France. PI: Dr B Doligez, CNRS-Lyon, France.
- BI3810 Field Skills in Animal Behaviour: admin, lecturing, practical, marking
- BI1512 Diversity of Life: admin, lecturing, practical, marking
- BI1512 Diversity of Life: lecturing, practical, marking
- ZO4539 Advanced Behavioural Ecology: lecturing, practical, marking
- BI4017 Honours Essays: supervision, marking
- BI4016 Honours Projects: supervision, marking
- BI5002 MSci Projects: supervision, marking
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Contamination by neonicotinoid insecticides in Barn owls (Tyto alba) and Alpine swifts (Tachymarptis melba).Science of the Total Environment, vol. 785, 147403Contributions to Journals: Articles
Bigger is not always better: viability selection on body mass varies across life stages in a hibernating mammalEcology and Evolution, vol. 11, no. 7, pp. 3435-3445Contributions to Journals: Articles
Short Communication: Long-term intake of the illegal diet pill DNP reduces lifespan in a captive bird modelComparative Biochemistry and Physiology. Part C, Comparative, vol. 242, 108944Contributions to Journals: Articles
Inter-individual variation in provisioning rate, prey size and number, and links to total prey biomass delivered to nestlings in the Collared Flycatcher (Ficedula albicollis)Avian Research, vol. 12, 15Contributions to Journals: Articles
Fluctuating optimum and temporally variable selection on breeding date in birds and mammalsPNAS, vol. 117, no. 50, pp. 31969-31978Contributions to Journals: Articles
The Role of Cognition in Social Information Use for Breeding Site Selection: Experimental Evidence in a Wild Passerine PopulationFrontiers in Ecology and Evolution, vol. 8, 559690Contributions to Journals: Articles
Born to be young?: Prenatal thyroid hormones increase early-life telomere length in wild collared flycatchersBiology Letters, vol. 16, no. 11, 20200364Contributions to Journals: Articles
Foster rather than biological parental telomere length predicts offspring survival and telomere length in king penguinsMolecular Ecology, vol. 29, no. 16, pp. 3155-3167Contributions to Journals: Articles
Correlation in telomere lengths between feathers and blood cells in pied flycatchersJournal of Avian Biology, vol. 51, no. 4, e02300Contributions to Journals: Articles
Plastic but repeatable: rapid adjustments of mitochondrial function and density during reproduction in a wild bird speciesBiology Letters, vol. 15, no. 11, 20190536Contributions to Journals: Articles