Professor Cock Van Oosterhout, University of East Anglia, School of Environmental Sciences, Centre for Ecology, Evolution and Conservation
Professor Enrico Coen, John Innes Centre
Hybrid populations of orchids in the European Alps produce a “natural laboratory” that enables us to study adaptive evolution in response to rapid environmental change. Alpine ecosystems are under severe threat of global warming and environmental change. Meadows on different mountains provide an outstanding study system to examine response to environmental change in a naturally replicated design. This allows us to examine parallel evolution in response to environmental change across hybrids and their ancestor species.
The goal of this project is to understand how species persist in fragile habitats despite the challenges of hybridization and climate change. The aims are: (1) determine ancestry of hybrid orchids; (2) understand barriers preventing species collapse between parent species from (1); and (3) understand how these species may be responding to past and future climate change.
This project combines various techniques, including field surveys of orchid populations, sequencing and analysis, and use of historical records of orchid occurrence and climate. The student will spend part of each summer in the European Alps surveying populations for flowering time and climate factors and collecting tissue for DNA analysis of hybrids and their parent species. Fieldwork will also include collection of pollinators and fruits to determine isolating barriers between parent species besides flowering time. By combining historical climate and occurrence/flowering time data, the student will determine the historical effects of climate change on populations and their potential for hybridization. Using spatial modeling/GIS, the student will also predict the effects of future climate change.
The student will have the opportunity for fieldwork in the Alps as well as training in methods in both the field and lab settings. This includes methods in genetics, entomology, botany, and bioinformatics. Professional training in scientific writing and presentation, as well as development of knowledge in the field through reading, are also an integral part of this project.
The ideal student for this project would have a background in evolution, ecology, and/or genetics. Experience working with plants and/or insects is a plus. We seek an enthusiastic, collaborative individual who is excited by interdisciplinary research.