Circadian clocks are almost universal among animals and are essential in coordinating physiological and metabolic functions throughout the day. The fundamental importance of circadian, or daily, rhythms encompasses all areas of biology, from human health, to development and behaviour, and was the research area of the recent Nobel prize winners (2017). However, there is also a seasonal clock, which allows reliable anticipation of forthcoming seasonal changes to time physiological adaptations necessary for survival, such as migration, hibernation and reproduction. How this seasonal clock functions is not known for any animal. Humans do show seasonal rhythms – immunity, infection, symptoms of Alzheimers disease and depression – but seasonal clocks are poorly defined in humans, therefore we look to other animals to define this clockwork. The Arctic is an excellent place to research biological clocks (chronobiology): the light dark cycle is absent for large parts of the year, offering unexploited natural experiments. To appreciate the wider impact of biological clocks it is necessary to first understand how they are co-ordinated at a mechanistic level and the limits of their function, which is the basis of the TFS award.
Shona has been running her lab at the University of Tromsø for the last 4.5 years, funded by the Tromsø Forskningsstiftelse (TFS) (grant value equivalent to: €2.5 million, started October 2017. Her research focusses on seasonal time keeping and hibernation. Her lab consists of one post-doctoral researcher, three PhD students. Recently, she was a co-applicant on the successful UiT Aroura centre 23 million NOK bid to establish a centre for seasonal timekeeping (ASTI), and has taken up a leadership role in this initiative as the deputy director.
She has an excellent track record in this field, publishing six reviews on seasonal timing and primary research papers in Nature communications, Current biology and Plos genetics, and a recent book chapter in Neuroendocrine clocks and timers.
Previously, she was a Research Co-investigator (2015-Sept 2017), in a well-funded lab at Manchester University, internationally recognized for its work on Biological Timing. As a research co-investigator I lead a research team alongside Professor Andrew Loudon (University of Manchester) and in collaboration with Professor David Burt (Rosin Institute, University of Edinburgh).