Prof Matthew Gage, School of Biological Sciences, University of East Anglia
Dr Lewis Spurgin, School of Biological Sciences, University of East Anglia
Dr Aldina Franco, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia
Dr Ian Bedford, Entomology Department, John Innes Centre
Earth’s climate is changing, and heatwaves are becoming more frequent and extreme. Biodiversity is responding to these changes by shifting ranges, declining and going extinct, but the proximate driving mechanisms still remain poorly understood. We have established in a model insect (Tribolium beetles) that reproduction is especially sensitive to heatwave conditions (temperatures 5-7oC above optimal for 5 days). Heatwaves damage male fertility and sperm function, and a second heatwave almost completely sterilises males. There are also transgenerational declines in the fitness of offspring if their fathers or fertilising sperm experienced heatwaves. These findings create an exciting foundation for a topical PhD to assess whether such reproductive thermosensitivity could contribute to the worrying declines in insect biodiversity recently reported. The three core aims of the project are to: 1) quantify heatwave effects on reproduction more widely across some new and important insect groups; 2) measure varying sensitivity across different insect life stages to environmentally relevant thermal stress; and 3) experimentally assess heatwave impacts on population viability.
APPROACH & TRAINING:
Different study species that are highly amenable to experimental breeding and research (some from collection of wild specimens) will be assayed, with the three project areas prioritized according to your own interests and abilities. You will be trained to sample, culture and manage different insects, and then conduct and analyse rigorously-controlled experimental ecology trials to reveal how heatwaves influence reproductive function, fitness, gene flow and population viability. You will master techniques in experimental design, phenotyping, microdissection and advanced in vivo and in vitro bioimaging. This PhD is an opportunity to answer topical scientific questions about impacts of climate change on insect reproduction and biodiversity.
You will join a welcoming and active research group generating world-class, NERC-supported science, an energetic ARIES cohort, and collaborate with colleagues across UEA, NRP and beyond. This environment will enable you to develop into an independent-thinking, international-impact scientist in a high priority area. You should have a strong degree in the life sciences, relevant research experience, and be passionate about understanding our natural environment.