Dr. Valérie Ducret

During my first year of master degree, I was particulary interested in population dynamics and behavioural ecology. My first research project was to study the effect of population densities on grasshoppers body size that can act on dispersal and thus population interactions.

Because genetics studies and the increase of new techniques in molecular biology allow to understand populations or communities evolution, I beggin to be interested in evolutionary biology.
Also, thanks to a second internship, I got a great experience with molecular ecology. The main focus of my work was to assess both the neutral and adaptive genetic diversity of an endangered population of Atlantic salmon. This internship showed me how essential molecular ecology can be in understanding the evolution of a population.

Currently, I am doing a PhD at the department of ecology and evolution at the university of Lausanne. First of all, the project proposed by A. Roulin caught my attention because of the integrative approach combining physiology, genetic and behaviour. Mix of different research areas and techniques will permit to understand accurately the role of the melanocortin in the barn owl.

Likewise, I am interested to describe and resolve the genetic basis of the melanocortin system because of its implication in the expression of many phenotypic traits that influence individual life history and population dynamics. Roulin’s group recently proposed the hypothesis that some melanocortin-physiological and –behavioural traits are correlated within individuals. Moreover, studies have shown that covariations between melanin-based coloration and other phenotypes are due to the melanocortin system. Thereby, the most important part of my work will be to perform genetic studies using samples of free-living barn owls in order to demonstrate this hypothesis.

Firstly, I will look for polymorphism in the coding sequence of melanocortin system genes. Secondly I will measure their expression levels. All part of this work will be done regarding to environmental factors and other individual traits like circadian rhythm.

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Member of Roulin group