Principal Research Officer

laura.weldon@wwt.org.uk

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About me

I joined the Conservation Evidence Wetland Science team in January 2020. I always knew I wanted to be a scientist and I was fascinated by the microscopic world. After a degree in microbiology, I worked mainly in molecular research on a range of microbes from yeast to tuberculosis. I decided to have a change of career in 2017 and building on previous experience began a PhD developing novel methods for the detection of the critically endangered European eel. Through the application of methods to detect environmental DNA I had my first introduction to wetlands ecology, working in freshwater lakes in Ireland and the UK to monitor critically endangered European eel. Previously my scientific experience has all been in research laboratories so I enjoy the chance to spend time in the field. I am fascinated by the potential for molecular methods to answer ecological questions and enjoy developing research methods into practical tools for conservation.

Work

I deliver the data that describes the biodiversity changes around natural flood management projects. WWT is involved in two UK flood management projects at the moment, by monitoring the biodiversity effects of these activities we are providing the evidence to support the justification of these interventions.

WWT is interested in the biodiversity changes that occur when Natural Flood Management interventions are introduced. I project manage our monitoring at Cotswold NFM sites and analyse the data generated by monitoring here and from NFM in the Two Valleys project. I have also been developing our Wetland Science Laboratory to introduce molecular methods of analysis to our science. Along with these I am interested in:

  • Quantitative PCR for detection and monitoring
  • Metabarcoding of species diversity
  • Passive acoustic methods of monitoring
  • Soundscapes and underwater acoustics
  • The development of research methods for use by citizen scientists
  • Engaging with citizen scientists in data collection methods
  • Supporting partner organisations in research.

Skills

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular biology
  • Environmental DNA applications
  • Passive acoustic monitoring
  • Data visualisation and analysis in the R environment

Publications

Weldon, L. O’Leary, C., Steer, M., Newton, L., Macdonald, H., Sargeant, S.L. (2020) A comparison of European eel Anguilla anguilla eDNA concentrations to fyke net catches in five Irish lakes. Environmental DNA. 2: 587– 600.

Eldridge B.M., Larson E.R., Weldon L., Smyth K., Sellin A., Chenchiah I.V., Liverpool T., Grierson C. S. (2021) A Centrifuge-Based Method for Identifying Novel Genetic Traits That Affect Root-Substrate Adhesion in Arabidopsis thaliana. Frontiers in Plant Science . 12: 243. DOI 10.3389/fpls.2021.602486

Abolins, S., Lazarou, L., Weldon, L., Hughes, L., King, E. C., Drescher, P., Pocock, M., Hafalla, J., Riley, E. M., & Viney, M. (2018). The ecology of immune state in a wild mammal, Mus musculus domesticus. PLoS biology, 16(4), e2003538. Wharam B, Weldon L, Viney M. (2017). Pheromone modulates two phenotypically plastic traits - adult reproduction and larval diapause - in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. BMC Evol Biol. 17(1):197. Published 2017 Aug 22. doi:10.1186/s12862-017-1033-9

Abolins S, Lazarou L, Weldon L, Hughes L, King EC, Drescher P, et al. (2017). The comparative immunology of wild and laboratory mice Mus musculus domesticus. Nat. Comm. 8: 14811 Weldon LW, Abolins S, Lenzi L, Bourne C, Riley EM, Viney ME. (2015). The gut microbiota of wild mice. PLoS ONE. 10 (8)