Dr Tom Pottinger

Dr Tom Pottinger

Fish Ecophysiology, Lake Ecosystems Group

Centre for Ecology & Hydrology
Lancaster Environment Centre
Library Avenue
T: +44 (0)1524 595800
F: +44 (0)1524 61536
E-mail: Dr Tom Pottinger

Current work

My work focuses on investigating how fish cope with, and respond to, adverse changes in their environment. Fish are key elements of the aquatic ecosystem, and an important economic and recreational resource. In order to manage and conserve this resource we need to understand how fish are affected by the chemical, physical and hydrological stressors that are increasingly prevalent in the freshwater aquatic environment. In addition, understanding how fish respond to environmental stressors at both an individual and population level informs our ability to assess the broader impact of environmental change and contributes to our fundamental understanding of vertebrate adaptive strategies.

Recent projects include an investigation into the modulation of the stress axis in sticklebacks by effluents from wastewater treatment works (WWTW) across North West England (Defra) and a multivariate evaluation of the effects of WWTW effluent remediation on reproductive health of fish exposed to the effluent (EDCAT: Defra).


Research interests

  • The stress response in fish
  • Coping strategies in fish and the links between physiology, behaviour and fitness
  • Development of the three-spined stickleback as a tool for environmental monitoring
  • The effects of endocrine-modulating substances in fish.


Brief CV

  • Partner, “Aquafirst: Combined genetic and functional genomic approaches for stress and disease resistance marker assisted selection in fish and shellfish” (EU STREP 513692; 2004-2008)
  • Deputy, then Acting Section Head, Environmental Chemistry and Pollution Section, CEH Lancaster (2004-2007).  
  • Partner, “EDEN: Exploring novel endpoints, exposure, low-dose and mixture-effects in humans, aquatic wildlife and laboratory animals” (EU QLK4-CT2002-00603; 2002-2007)
  • Partner, “Stressgenes: a functional genomic approach to measuring stress in fish aquaculture” (EU Q5RS-2001-002211; 2001-2004)
  • Head of Fish Biology Section, CEH Windermere (2000-2004).
  • Coordinator, “Selective breeding for stress tolerance in aquacultured fish” (EU FAIR-CT95-0152; 1994-1998).
  • Member NERC Freshwater Sciences Peer Review Committee (1999-2002).
  • Member, Editorial Advisory Board, Aquaculture (2002- ).
  • Assistant Editor, Journal of Fish Biology (1992-1997), Guest editor, 2012.


Selected Publications

See also the NERC Open Research Archive.

Pottinger, T.G., Henrys, P.A., Williams, R.J. and Matthiessen, P. 2013. The stress response of three-spined sticklebacks is modified in proportion to effluent exposure downstream of wastewater treatment works. Aquatic Toxicology doi:10.1016/j.aquatox.2012.09.002.

Katsiadaki, I., Sanders, M., Henrys, P.A., Scott, A.P., Matthiessen, P. and Pottinger, T.G. 2012. Field surveys reveal the presence of anti-androgens in an effluent-receiving river using stickleback-specific biomarkers Aquatic Toxicology 122-123, 75-85. doi:10.1016/j.aquatox.2012.05.006

Pemmasani, J.K., Pottinger, T.G. and Cairns, M.T. 2011. Analysis of hepatic gene expression in rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) selected for high- and low-responsiveness to stress.  Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part D 6, 406-419. doi:10.1016/j.cbd.2011.09.001

Pottinger, T.G., Cook, A., Jürgens, M.D., Sebire, M., Henrys, P.A., Katsiadaki, I., Balaam, J.L., Smith, A.J. and Matthiessen, P. 2011. Indices of stress in two populations of three-spined sticklebacks are altered by extreme weather events and exposure to waste-water effluent. Journal of Fish Biology 79, 256-279. DOI: 10.1111/j.1095-8649.2011.03013.x

Pottinger, T.G., Cook, A., Jürgens, M.D., Rhodes, G., Katsiadaki, I., Balaam, J.L., Smith, A.J. and Matthiessen, P. 2011. Effects of sewage effluent remediation on body size, somatic RNA:DNA ratio, and markers of chemical exposure in three-spined sticklebacks. Environment International 37, 158-169. DOI: 10.1016/j.envint.2010.08.012

Pottinger, T.G. 2009. A multivariate comparison of the stress response in three salmonid and three cyprinid fish species: evidence for between-family differences. Journal of Fish Biology 76, 601-621.

Kittilsen, S., Schjolden, J., Beitnes-Johansen, I., Shaw, J.C., Pottinger, T.G., Sørensen, C., Braastad, B.O., Bakken, M. and Øverli, Ø. 2009. Melanin-based skin spots reflect stress responsiveness in salmonid fish. Hormones and Behavior 56, 292-298

Talbot, A.T., Pottinger, T.G., Smith, T.J. and Cairns, M.T. 2009. Acute phase gene expression in rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) after exposure to a confinement stressor: a comparison of pooled and individual data. Fish and Shellfish Immunology 27, 309-317.

Jolly, C., Katsiadaki, I., Morris, S., Belle, N.L.E., Dufour, S., Mayer, I., Pottinger, T.G. and Scott, A.P. 2009. Detection of the antiandrogenic effect of endocrine disrupting environmental contaminants using in vivo and in vitro assays in the three-spined stickleback. Aquatic Toxicology 92, 228-239.

Prunet, P., Cairns, M.T., Winberg, S., and Pottinger, T.G. 2008. Functional genomics of stress responses in fish. Reviews in Fisheries Science vol 16, Suppl 1 – Functional Genomics in Sustainable Aquaculture 157-166.

Ruiz-Gomez, M. de L., Kittilsen, S., Höglund, E., Huntingford, F.A., Sørensen, C., Pottinger, T.G.,  Bakken, M., Winberg, S., Korzan, W.J. and Øverli, Ø. 2008. Behavioral plasticity in rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) with divergent coping styles: When doves become hawks. Hormones and Behaviour 54, 534-538.

Cairns, M.T., Johnson, M.C., Talbot, A.T., Pemmasani, J.K., McNeill, R.E., Houeix, B., Sangrador-Vegas, A. and Pottinger, T.G. 2008. A cDNA microarray assessment of gene expression in the liver of rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) in response to a handling and confinement stressor. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part D: Genomics and Proteomics 3, 51-66.

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