Loeske Kruuk awarded ERC Advanced Grant
Professor Loeske Kruuk, who will be joining the School of Biological Sciences later in 2021, has been awarded a European Research Council (ERC) Advanced Grant, to study evolution in wild animal populations.
Loeske, an evolutionary ecologist currently based at the Australian National University, is one of 209 leading researchers across Europe to receive the award.
ERC Advanced Grants support excellent researchers at the career stage at which they are already established research leaders with a recognised track-record of research achievements.
Every year, the ERC selects and funds the very best, creative researchers of any nationality and age, to run projects based in Europe.
Evolution in changing environments
Loeske’s project EVOWILD will lead to a better understanding of how environmental changes – such as climate change or disease outbreaks – shape evolution in wild animal populations.
Her research will combine classical evolutionary theory with state‐of‐the‐art genomic and statistical technology and data from multiple long-term studies of mammal populations across the world.
The project will analyse the mechanisms by which wild animal populations are adapting to environmental change.
It will compare the impact of genetic changes driven by evolution versus the immediate effects of the environment on the characteristics of individuals and the wider population.
It will also study how individuals' genetic contributions to future generations are shaped by their social interactions with others.
Loeske will also be part of the University of Edinburgh’s new centre, Adapting to Changing Environments (ACE), which will be launched in 2021.
Her ERC project is timely as it will lead to greater understanding of the impact that adapting to changes is having on different populations, which is one of the central aims of ACE.
Loeske did her PhD in the School of Biological Sciences at Edinburgh, a postdoc split between the Universities of Cambridge and Edinburgh, and a research fellowship at Edinburgh, before moving to the Australian National University in Canberra in 2012.
She will be returning to Edinburgh to take up a Royal Society Research Professorship later in 2021.
I am delighted and honoured to have been awarded an ERC Advanced Grant, and very excited at the prospect of starting the project on my return to the University of Edinburgh’s School of Biological Sciences. Research is a joint venture, and none of this would be possible without the many excellent colleagues with whom I have worked – including the collaborators on the long-term studies in this project. Writing a large grant proposal like this whilst home-schooling kids during the pandemic was not straightforward, so I also owe a massive thank-you to my family for their support; I am just so pleased that it was worth it.
For this last ERC call under Horizon 2020, over 200 researchers will be funded to follow their scientific instinct and dreams. Still, the great increase in demand led to a very fierce competition: only 8% of candidates were successful. Many outstanding researchers with innovative ideas passed the excellence threshold, but were left unfunded due to budget constraints – another motivation for the national and regional levels to support these great projects. We look forward to seeing what major insights and breakthroughs will spring from this investment and trust. We are pleased with the continued positive trend for women researchers showing that ERC’s sustained efforts on this matter pay off.