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Pontefract - Marine Biologist - London, UK

Nicola Pontefract

London, UK


Marine Biologist

Work History

Seattle, WA

Attended World Aquaculture Society 2014 Conference

From February 2014

International meeting of researchers, scientists, students and professionals addressing current research, issues, improvements, industry growth and other relevant topics.

Plymouth University

"Hands on Genomics and Proteomics" Workshop

June 2013 - July 2013

Comprised theory and practical sessions for a number of different techniques, including PCR, Reverse Transcription, RQ-PCR, ELISA and RIA.

Recipient of the Fishmongers Company Grant

From October 2013

£4,200 awarded to cover the cost of tuition fees for masters degree.

Plymouth University

Recipient of Lallemand Inc. Research Sponsorship

From January 2013

£5,000 awarded to support investigations into the supplementation of exogenous nucleotides in sea bass diets. (Masters Research and Thesis).

Plymouth University

“Giant Viruses and the Tree of Life” Podcast.

From February 2012

Following a seminar during my final undergraduate year at university, I was asked, along with others, to produce a podcast covering the main points of our debate about giant viruses. This was made available online, primarily for the use of interested 2nd year undergraduates, on the same degree programme.

Prague, Czech Republic

Attended 2012 AQUA - WAS Conference

From September 2012

International meeting of researchers, scientists, students and professionals addressing current research, issues, improvements, industry growth and other relevant topics.

Plymouth University

Aquarium Experience / Volunteering

September 2012 - September 2013

Duties included: size grading of rainbow trout, tilapia and sea bass, administering formalin treatment for protozoan infected sea bass, gill snips, diet formulation and manufacture, cleaning and maintaining recirculation systems (including water chemistry, temperature etc.), monitoring fish health, and the day-to-day care of fish, including feeding.

Plymouth University

Microbiology Lab Assistant for PhD Research

November 2011 - July 2012

Duties included: formulating and plating agar media, preparing equipment (autoclaving etc), dissection of sea bass and tilapia under aseptic conditions for gastrointestinal extraction, plate spreading, CFU plate counting, and serial dilutions.

Tortola, British Virgin Islands

Volunteer on Senior Project: “An Exploration of the Adaptations of Tropical Fish”.

From August 2007

Involved: collecting data, statistical analysis, identifying various species, and underwater surveys, mapping, and grid sweeps.


Dietary modulation of gut microbiota in Sea bass and Tilapia fed soybean- and seaweed-meal

The aquaculture industry has grown dramatically in the last 50 years. However, in order to sustain this growth and future development, alternative feeds to fish meal, that supply adequate levels of energy and protein to sustain the optimal growth of fish, without negatively affecting the gastrointestinal microbiota that are known to aid in immunity and disease resistance of the fish, are urgently needed. Intensification will inevitably lead to increased incidence of disease, especially now that there are rising concerns about the widespread use of antibiotics. The concept of prebiotics, non-digestible food ingredients that beneficially affect the host by selectively stimulating the growth and/or activity of specific health-promoting bacteria, are therefore receiving much attention for their applicability to aquaculture. As seaweeds, such as Ascophyllum nodosum, are rich in polysaccharides, they are an obvious choice for investigation as potential prebiotics. In this study, tilapias (Oreochromis spp.) were fed either a basal, fish meal, diet or a diet containing 10% A. nodosum (seaweed meal) for four weeks to investigate its effect on gut microbial populations. Although an increase in average colony forming units was observed in tilapia fed the seaweed meal diet, it was not a significant increase (P>0.05) compared to fish fed the fish meal diet. A longer trial or increased inclusion level may produce a significant result, confirming its prebiotic capabilities. In a separate experiment, the effect of soybean meal on the gut microbiota of European sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax) was investigated, compared to those of sea bass fed a fish meal diet, with the aim of highlighting its suitability as an alternative feed to fish meal. A significant increase in Lactic acid bacteria was observed in the fish fed the soybean meal compared to the fish fed the fish meal diet at both the second and fourth week of sampling (P<0.05), indicating that it is indeed a suitable candidate to replace fish meal in diets and has potential for use as a prebiotic.

Dietary Supplementation of Nucleotides on Sea bass growth and intestinal health

Nucleotides, nucleosides and nucleic acids (NU collectively) are among the essential building blocks of life, performing essential physiological and biochemical functions (Li and Gatlin, 2006). A growing body of research is emerging, supporting the theory that NU supplemented aquafeeds may be of great benefit to farmed fish. European sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax) were subjected to a ten week feeding trial with 0.02%, 0.04% and 0.08% inclusion of an NU mixture (Laltide®), derived from the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. No significant differences were observed in fish growth or condition factor between the diets. Dietary inclusion of NU was found to cause significant differences in carcass ash content (P <0.005), yet no differences were found in any other constituent. No significant differences were detected in distal intestinal fold length, perimeter ratio, or lamina propria width (P>0.05). However, goblet cell abundance was significantly affected by NU supplementation in the distal intestine (P <0.05), as was microvilli density (P <0.05). Serum lysozyme activity was not significantly enhanced or diminished by NU addition and culture-dependant microbiological analysis of gastrointestinal micro-flora revealed inconclusive results. Overall, results of this study indicate that orally administered NU can affect certain aspects of the intestinal morphology of fish. Nevertheless, future research concerning dosage and exposure is warranted.

Qualifications & Certifications

MSc Sustainable Aquaculture Systems

University of Plymouth

BSc (Hons) Marine Biology

University of Plymouth

A-Level Biology, Chemistry and Maths

Peter Symonds College, Winchester

Crofton Senior School

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