Alison Kuhl

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Research Analyst


I obtained a BSc (Hons) degree in Applied Chemistry with Analytical Chemistry at the University of Salford in 1997. I studied on a part time (day release) basis whilst working for Astra Zeneca (AZ) - Specialty Chemicals division (formerly ICI Colours and Fine Chemicals) in Blackley near Manchester.  During my 10 years with AZ I worked firstly within the Spectroscopy group to identify novel compounds using both NMR and mass spectrometry (MS), and latterly within the Characterisation group again working on novel compounds and competitors products in addition to trouble shooting problems with manufactured products and new product development.

As well as NMR and MS I have experience of other techniques such as gas chromatography (GC), high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), thin layer chromatography (TLC), and hybrid techniques including GC/MS and LC/MS.

Prior to working at AZ, I was employed as an analytical assistant at North West Water in their lab at Bolton water treatment works where I used techniques such as atomic absorption (AA) and colorimetry.

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I joined the group in 2007 and I am responsible for the day-to-day management of the NERC Life Sciences Mass Spectrometry Facility (LSMSF) housed within the School of Chemistry, University of Bristol.

I organize and conduct defined research projects to meet the research objectives of applications to NERC LSMSF (see the website for more details about the Facility) and manage research staff and students using Facility instrumentation including training where required. I manage the Facility annual budget and carry out administrative duties relating to the Facility under the guidance of the Facility manager Dr Ian Bull.

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Notable Projects

I have been involved with a many applications to the Facility, these include:

 Chemical communication in female Eurasian otters (Lutra lutra) This application used solid phase micro extraction (SPME) to extract the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from otter spraint which was subsequently examined by GC/MS. The spraint was collected from several individual female otters at varying times during the reproductive cycle. The hypothesis was that patterns of occurrence or abundance of VOCs from scent marks (spraint) would correlate with fluctuations in the female reproductive hormones.This work formed part of a PhD (University of Cardiff) thesis and a further publication is pending.

Environmental modulation of investment in egg production in green turtles (Chelonia mydas)This application involved analysis of fatty acid methyl esters (FAMES) from the lipid fraction of turtle egg yolks which allowed comparison of the fatty acid profiles of eggs from females nesting at different beaches (cool versus hot). These data were related to yolk concentrations of lipophilic antioxidants which had already been determined. This work formed part of a PhD thesis (University of Exeter) and a publication:, Weber, S.B., Broderick, A.C., Groothuis, T.G.G., Ellick, J., Godley, B.J. and Blount, J.D. (2011) Fine-scale thermal adaptation in a green turtle nesting population, Proc. R. Soc. B published online 21 September 2011.

Degradation of dissolved complex polysaccharides compounds in estuarine littoral zones.This was a 13C labelling experiment in which the diatom Nitzchia vitrea (which produce specific  extracellular polymeric substances (EPS)) were grown in cultures with 13C-bicarbonate as the sole carbon source, control cultures were grown with unlabelled bicarbonate. This was then added to microcosm sediment slurries and samples taken over a time course. The phospholipid fatty acids (PLFA) were extracted and examined by both GC/MS and GC/C/IRMS  and the data was used to indicate which PLFAs  gave an enriched signal. This information can help identify some of the main organisms responsible for EPS degradation in the intertidal estuarine sediments. This work formed part of another PhD (University of Essex) thesis and the findings were recently published in Limnology and Oceanography (Taylor et al,. 2013).

Chemosynthetically-driven Ecosystems South of the Polar Front (ChEsSo) This work formed part of a wider assessment of the trophodynamic structure of s deep-sea hydrothermal vent systems. Amino acids from the muscle tissue of several invertebrate species found in vent systems in the southern ocean were extracted and analysed for compound specific 15N.  The data will potentially help define trophic relationships at specific vent sites with greater resolution and assess compound specific stable isotope analysis based trophodynamic differences among species and locations. Comparison with bulk isotope analysis may inform on potential confounding factors in wider analysis of chemosynthetic food webs based solely with bulk isotope data.

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2. Taylor, J.D., McKew, B.A., Kuhl, A., McGenity, T.J. and Underwood, G.J.C. 2013. Microphytobenthic extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) in intertidal sediments fuel both generalist and specialist EPS-degrading bacteria. Limnol. Oceanogr. 58. 1463-1480

1. Styring, A.K., Kuhl, A., Knowles, T.D.J., Fraser, R.A., Bogaard, A. and Evershed, R.P. 2012. Practical considerations in the determination of compound-specific amino acid delta N-15 values in animal and plant tissues by gas chromatography-combustion-isotope ratio mass spectrometry, following derivatisation to their N-acetylisopropyl esters. Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry 26(19), 2328-2334

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