I obtained my PhD with the Mariani lab in 2022 and now work as a Policy Advisor & Marine Scientist with Oceana Europe.
My research at the Mariani lab focused on testing and developing genetic methods to combat illegal fishing practices. I was particularly interested in portable molecular tools that could allow to quickly identify specimen in the field as ways to prevent the substitution of species. I also had a special interest in using background knowledge in population genetics to develop technologies that can help us identify where marketed fish products were caught. During my Master’s I specialized in arctic marine ecology and investigated how strong seasonal variations in high latitude light regime affect the feeding behaviour of local and encroaching Boreal fish species.
Demand for seafood product is increasing worldwide, contributing to increasingly complex supply chains. This makes traceability efforts difficult, and DNA barcoding technologies have exposed the extent to which marketed fish species are being mislabelled. As part of this PhD I worked closely with Thermagenix who uses real-time PCR technology for the fast identification of species. I was able not only to validate this universal identification tool but also to test it on board a research vessel in the Celtic sea, amidst (very!) rough weather conditions. I will move on to compare this method with the Oxford nanopore MinION.
I am originally from France, but spent most of my childhood living on a sailboat and home schooled. This must have been when my curiosity for living systems and my love for questioning, investigating, and answering (or attempting to do so) developed. As an adult, I decided to move to Canada to complete my undergraduate degree in Zoology at the University of Toronto. Attracted to polar ecosystems after working as a research assistant in the Canadian Arctic, I then moved to northern Norway, where I completed my Master’s thesis at the University of Tromso and the University Centre in Svalbard. After opportunistically working aboard fishing trawlers as a researcher, a growing interest in molecular biology and methodologies to improve sustainable fisheries pushed me to move to Manchester and start a PhD in 2018 as part of the SEATRACES project.
I am an avid science communicator and you can find me on Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube!
Cusa M. *, St John Glew K. *, Clive T, Mariani S, Buckley L, Neat F, Longo K. (2022). A future for seafood point-of-origin testing using DNA and stable isotope signatures. Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries * These authors contributed equally to the work
Cusa M., Falcao L., De Jesus J., Biolatti C., Blondeel L., Bracken F.S.A., Devriese L., Garcés-Pastor S., Minoudi S., Gubili C., Acutis P.L., Mariani S. (2021) Fish out of water: Consumers’ unfamiliarity with the appearance of commercial fish species. Sustainability Science
Naaum, A.M., Cusa, M., Singh, M., Bleicher, Z., Elliott, C., Goodhead, I.B., Hanner, R.H., Helyar, S.J., Mariani, S., Rice, J.E., Wangh, L.J., Sanchez, J.A. (2021) Validation of FASTFISH-ID: A new commercial platform for rapid fish species authentication via universal closed-tube barcoding, Food Research International, doi.org/10.1016/j.foodres.2020.110035
Cusa, M., Berge, J., Varpe, Ø. (2019) Seasonal shifts in feeding patterns: Individual and population realized specialization in a high Arctic fish. Ecology and Evolution, doi.org/10.1002/ece3.5615