Claudia MaturanaClaudia S. Maturana  

Project title: Phylogeography of the Antarctic freshwater copepod Boeckella poppei.

Claudia is a biologist currently studying for her PhD on Antarctic freshwater crustacean phylogeography. She has a Masters degree in Biological Science from the University of Chile, in which she developed her research on reproductive strategies in a brooding sea urchin from the Southern Ocean. As part of this project, Claudia carried out research at Escudero Station in Fildes Bay (King George Island, South Shetlands). After finishing her Master’s degree Claudia changed the focus of her research from marine processes to freshwater ecosystems, but still addressing core questions relating to evolutionary processes and biogeographical patterns in Antarctica fauna. Claudia’s supervision is shared by Dr. Elie Poulin (University of Chile) and Prof. Peter Convey (British Antarctic Survey, also linked with Cambridge University), and her PhD research is a joint project between these organisations.

Claudia is interested in studying the phylogeography of freshwater Crustacea and addressing biogeographical questions relating to their Antarctic and sub-Antarctic distribution. Distributional evidence suggests that freshwater crustaceans may have persisted on the Antarctic continent throughout glacial cycles in lacustrine refuges. However, an alternative explanation is re-colonization by dispersal to the Antarctic from sub-Antarctic islands and South America. A good model to test these competing hypotheses is the species Boeckella poppei, a calanoid copepod that occurs in lakes of southern South America, South Georgia, South Orkney and South Shetland Islands, and the Antarctic Peninsula, in addition to isolated populations in the Amery Oasis, East Antarctica. This species is exceptional within the Antarctic terrestrial and freshwater fauna in its occurrence across all three of the recognized Antarctic biogeographical zones (sub‑, maritime and continental Antarctic).

Claudia’s PhD research will determine which hypotheses best explain the distribution of Boeckella poppei, and will utilise state of the art molecular approaches to do so. The data obtained will permit Claudia to estimate biogeographical linkages across the region, and will provide evidence to increase knowledge of the past events that have shaped contemporary Antarctic freshwater biodiversity. In order to achieve these aims, Claudia requires fresh material throughout the species’ Antarctic, sub-Antarctic and South American distribution, and particularly the remote oceanic islands of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. These islands will be included within the ACE programme, and are otherwise difficult to access. Claudia’s participation in this programme will therefore provide an exciting opportunity to increase the breadth of her sampling, and hence the strength of the biogeographical analyses that she can complete.