I am an ecophysiologist interested in evolutionary biology. Understanding how the process of ageing differ between individuals, influencing performance and lifespan, remains a corner-stone question in evolutionary biology. The main goal of my research is to contribute to a better understanding of the origin of the great diversity of ageing rates, by trying to uncover the evolved mechanisms (i.e. molecular, cellular and physiological) that shape the life-history trade-offs in different environments. To do so, I develop an approach at the crossroads between physiology and molecular biology, measuring of telomere length to assess ageing rates as an output of individual life-history trade-offs in contrasting environments. Together with an engineer from the University of Strasbourg, Sandrine Zahn, we created a molecular biology laboratory devoted to quantitative PCR (Biologie moléculaire), in particular applied to telomere length measurements. Based on scientific collaborations and using different animal models, I try to determine the nature of the factors explaining among individual variation in ageing rates (telomere erosion) and the consequences of ageing-rate variation on individual fitness (reproduction and survival). My work has mostly focused on birds, but I am keen in using any animal model system that may produce interesting data explaining individual ageing variation. This may apply to any organism characterized by a particular life history and/or ageing pattern. In the last few years, I realized that social species which provide specific answers to environmental challenges, are interesting models to assess how rates of ageing have co-evolved with sociality.
Ageing is a complex, multi-factorial, process that is highly variable, both at the inter-specific and at the inter-individual level. In addition to telomere erosion rates, my approach also considers other mechanisms involved in cellular ageing (i.e. mitochondrial functioning, cell signaling) to determine how they vary among species with different lifespans (comparative approach), or among individuals from the same species faced with different life trajectories (experimental approach). In collaboration with other researchers from the IPHC and the University of Strasbourg, I started in 2015 to develop proteomic and genomic approaches to study those pathways in non-laboratory species.