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AquaWales: People

Swansea University

Dr Sonia Consuegra

Dr Sonia Consuegra is Associate Professor in Biosciences at Swansea University where she works on Evolutionary Ecology of aquatic organisms, mainly fish. She obtained a BSc in Biology (First class) from the University of Oviedo. She then worked for 8 years as External Scientific Advisor in salmon genetics for the government in Spain before obtaining a PhD in Conservation Genetics from the University of Cantabria. After postdocs at the Zoological Society of London and the University of St. Andrews and a maternity break, she was appointed Lecturer in Aquatic Biology at Aberystwyth University. She is Fellow of the Society of Biology and of the Higher Education Academy and Deputy Director of the newly created Centre for Animal Health and Welfare in Sustainable Food Production at Swansea University.

Tel:01792 602931

Dr Tamsyn Uren Webster is a postdoctoral researcher at Swansea University. Her interests focus on using high-throughput sequencing to assess the health impacts of environmental stressors in fish. Recently she has been investigating the impacts of stress on the gut and skin microbiome and disease resistance in Atlantic salmon, together with the associated epigenetic and transcriptomic mechanisms underlying these effects. She previously completed a PhD at the University of Exeter, using RNA-seq to establish mechanisms of chemical toxicity in brown trout, as well as mechanisms of metal tolerance in wild fish populations. Tamsyn has joined the Swansea AquaWales team in June 2016 as a Sêr Cymru Fellow.

Prof. Carlos Garcia de Leaniz is Chair in Aquatic BioSciences and Director of Fish & Fisheries Research at the Centre For Sustainable Aquatic Research (CSAR), Department of BioSciences, Swansea University. His background is on fish biology with expertise on Behavioural Ecology, Conservation, Food security and Aquaculture. He works mostly with salmonids as model systems to understand how organisms adapt and respond to change and is generally more interested in the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ than in the ‘whats’. He has experience serving in scientific panels and advising Governments and NGOs, and feels that research paid by taxer payers should benefit tax payers. Most of his research is highly applied, has had media coverage and has served to inform policy.

Chloe Robinson is a PhD student at Swansea University, supervised by Dr Sonia Consuegra and Prof. Carlos Garcia de Leaniz. She recently obtained an MSc in Environmental Biology (Distinction) from Swansea University. She has previously been involved with Natural Resource Wales (NRW) whilst undertaking a river connectivity and population genetics project for her Masters dissertation, with brown trout (Salmo trutta) as the target species. Her main research interests include animal behaviour and molecular ecology, focussing on aquatic species.

Aberystwyth University

Prof. Peter Brophy studied biochemistry at Glasgow and Stirling Universities before obtaining a PhD from Aberystwyth University comparing the toxin detoxification pathways in the parasitic flatworms Schistocephalus solidus (stickleback host) and Moniezia expansa (sheep host). After holding a Medical Research Council research post at Aberystwyth (1987–1990) he completed further research training in biotechnology at the BioCentre in Leicester. In 1991, he was awarded a Wellcome Trust Fellowship based at Nottingham University exploring parasite defences against immune assault. A Senior Research Fellowship in the Leicester Pharmacy School (1994–97) provided opportunities in rational drug design and lead compound synthesis. He established the first proteomics laboratory dedicated to parasitic worm investigations during Readerships at the Universities of Aberystwyth and Liverpool (1998–2006) and in 2007 he returned to Aberystwyth as a Professor in Parasitology and Founder Director of Postgraduate Studies of IBERS (2008–2013). He has been an advisor in parasite drug discovery to the WHO and completed a number of industrial consultancies. Peter have published almost a 100 research papers/books/chapters on parasitology and has supervised 15 PhD students to completion.

Rebekah Weatherhead is a PhD Student at Aberystwyth University, supervised by Dr. Joe Jackson and Professor Jo Cable. With a bachelor in Veterinary Medicine from The Royal Veterinary College (2013) and a masters in Tropical Marine Biology from The University of Essex (2015), her main research interests lie in the area of animal conservation and disease management/prevention, particularly in aquatic species. She also has a keen interest in imaging, with her MSc thesis investigating the repair process of corals using widefield fluorescence microscopy. Rebekah joined the Aqua Wales team in September 2015.

Cardiff University

Prof. Jo Cable is an ecological parasitologist with over 25 years research experience of fish disease and aquatic health, interested in the biotic and abiotic factors that drive parasite transmission on native and invasive species. Much of her previous work has been based on small tropical or temperate fish (guppies, sticklebacks and cichlids), ideal model species that can be used to address fundamental and applied epidemiological questions at an individual, population and ecosystem level. Her aquarium at Cardiff is designed for maintenance and monitoring controlled infections, scaling this up to riverine conditions with colleagues at the School of Engineering and to natural systems with collaborators at Cefas, the Environment Agency, Natural Resources Wales and abroad. She has published >125 ISI articles in this field, and is co-founder of the BES Parasites and Pathogens Special Interest Group, Editorial Board Member for Experimental Parasitology and Leading Aquarist for Aquarian. Her research group, funded by the EU, RCUK and Leverhulme, collaborates extensively with governmental agencies and industry (

Dr Amy Ellison has a broad interest in all aspects of evolutionary biology, especially pathogen-host interactions and co-evolution. She has a particular interest in how next-generation sequencing technologies can be used in the study of biotic and abiotic factors influencing species-specific differences in responses to shared pathogens. In addition, she is interested in how parasites and other pathogens influence genetic diversity and structuring in host populations. After obtaining her PhD in evolutionary genetics at Aberystwyth University, she went on to a postdoc position in comparative functional genomics at Cornell University in the US. Amy has joined the Cardiff AquaWales team in June 2015 as a Sêr Cymru Fellow.

Dr Pablo Orozco-ter Wengel ( has always been amazed by the diversity of animals and plants. This interest led him to study population genetics and the possibility of inferring species evolutionary history using molecular markers. Since then he has focused his studies around understanding how genetic variation is maintained and lost in wild populations of different organisms, ranging from South America’s single bear species (the spectacled bear) to Malagasy boas and Asiatic cheetahs or the less wild but powerful genetic tool Drosophila melanogaster. The development of laboratory technologies that led to the emergence of next generation sequencing has enabled him to study genomes in more detail in order to characterise species demographic histories and find signatures of selection; the latter being particularly interesting as it allows us to identify genomic regions that have been involved in processes of positive selection like those resulting from adapting to the local environment (among others, adapting to local climate, diseases, food etc). His research focuses on using large scale ‘omic datasets and bioinformatics to understand adaptation to the environment and domestication among others.

Dr Raquel Xavier is a post-doc researcher at CIBIO (University of Porto, and Cardiff University ( supervised by Prof Jo Cable. Her main research interests are host-parasite interactions and parasite spill-over between farmed and wild fish stocks. She works in collaboration with fish farms in Portugal and is currently funded through Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia (FCT).

Bangor University

Dr Andrew Foote is an evolutionary ecologist with a particular interest in adaptation and speciation. Using a multi-disciplinary approach that combines ancient DNA, genomics and behavioural studies, Andrew has investigated these process in the killer whale, which has radiated into different forms and ecotypes. Andrew is currently applying these approaches to more model systems for understanding the processes and underlying mechanisms of adaptation and speciation. After completing his PhD at Aberdeen University, he undertook research fellowships based at Copenhagen University, Uppsala University and most recently the University of Bern, before returning to the UK to work on a CoFund fellowship at Bangor University.

Cardiff Harbour Authority

David Hall is an environmental scientist with 18 years of experience, originally with the Environment Agency as a biologist and Tactical Planner Officer, and more recently as an Environment Officer with Cardiff Harbour Authority. DH has a BSc in Biochemistry & Microbiology, and MSc degrees in Applied Hydrobiology and Environmental Conservation Management. DH works closely with academia and has funded and co-supervised three PhD studies, looking at the development of the ecology of Cardiff Bay, zooplankton and zebra mussels. He is currently assisting a PhD student investigating phytoplankton dynamics and possible implications as a result of climate change and has worked with numerous undergraduate and postgraduate students, many of these carrying out investigations into invasive species.


Eric Roderick is the Managing Director of FishGen, a British Company, based at Swansea University (SU) that was set up to commercialise the extensive research undertaken by scientists at SU and collaborators worldwide. Fishgen’s main focus is genetic enhancement in tilapia, promoting these technologies through provision of consultancy services and sales of improved fish; the income generated funding further research and product development. Much of the world’s tilapia production utilises hormonal sex reversal to produce all male fry for on growing. The males grow larger and faster than the females (egg production and mouth brooding in females is a major drain on body resources restricting growth), ensuring greater profitability. Fishgen has developed the “YY male technology”, an innovative and robust genetic technology where supermales have a YY genotype instead of the usual XY male genotype. These supermales have the unique property of siring only male progeny, which are termed Genetically Male Tilapia (GMT). GMT are completely normal males and are not treated in any way, and are not considered a genetically modified organism (GMO). This is an environmentally friendly technology requiring no special facilities for its application.

Natural Resources Wales

Peter Gough graduated from the University of Cardiff and has worked in the area of freshwater and diadromous fisheries in a 30-year career. He is a member of the Institute of Fisheries Management and Chartered Environmentalist. Principle areas of recent work have involved the management of salmon and sea trout populations in the rivers of Wales, with a broader overview role on national salmon management technical groups. He has been involved in a large number of projects to improve the status of fish stocks, including specification and construction of fish passes and fish counters and the management of exploitation by nets and anglers. He has been directly involved in project specification and supervision of about 20 PhD and Masters students at 4 universities in Wales and England, and has represented Natural Resources Wales on the steering groups of about 15 major funded projects including one LIFE+ project.

Pontus Aqua

Dr Jack James runs Pontus Aqua, an aquaculture and aquatics research and management consultancy based in Aberdare, Rhondda Cynon Taff. Pontus Aqua offers advice and consulting on all aspects of aquaculture and aquatic R&D, facility management, training and education. Dr. James received his undergraduate degree in Marine Biology in 2003 and a PhD in Aquaculture in 2009 from Swansea University. He has since run an eel farm in Madagascar and an R&D facility in Malta prior to forming Pontus Aqua in 2014.


Dr Brendan Gara has over 20 years of senior management, technical and operational aquaculture experience in both private and public sectors and is a qualified lecturer and assessor. This gives Brendan a unique blend of experience and skills to develop and deliver industry relevant training at all levels. He has successfully set up business incubator facilities, hosting private ventures and higher education R&D, and has collaborated in a number of international R&D projects. Brendan is Head of Centre of the SkillFish SQA approved training and assessment centre.

Wye & Usk Foundation

Following a successful career in dental surgery, both in practice and teaching at university (Bristol), Dr Stephen Marsh-Smith became founder, chairman and later chief executive of the Wye and Usk Foundation which was formed in response to declining salmon stocks in the Wye, the organisation has developed into one of the UKs largest charitable river and fisheries trusts now with a staff of 25. The focus has been the delivery of sustainable river restoration but has extended into wider catchment management and ecosystem service repair. This ranged from (2000) commercial net buy outs in the Severn estuary, 1000km of riparian habitat restoration; over 85 fish passes, the largest ever successful acid waters project in the UK and recently completed: a farm diffuse pollution project in the Wye catchhment. In 2011, he was honoured with an OBE for Services to the Environment.

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