Dr Jen Perry, School of Biological Sciences, University of East Anglia
Prof Matt Gage, School of Biological Sciences, University of East Anglia
Dr Andrew Salisbury, Royal Horticultural Society (RHS)
Prof Helen Roy, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH)
Climate change and invasive species have been described as a “deadly duo”. We have the potential to explore the interacting effects of these drivers of biodiversity change using ladybirds as a model system. Some native U.K. ladybirds have declined in recent years, in part as a result of the establishment and spread of an invasive ladybird, Harmonia axyridis. Climatic factors are likely to affect ladybird behaviour, physiology, and interactions with other species – including prey and competitors – and are therefore likely to affect the abundance and stability of native ladybird populations. There is now a need to understand how native ladybird species respond to the combined threats of invasive species and a changing climate.
This project will ask how native and invasive ladybirds are impacted by the changing U.K. climate. The aims are to evaluate how the changing climate – including increasing summer temperature, periods of are extreme heat, and milder winter temperatures – impacts behaviour, population growth and stability of native and invasive ladybirds; to evaluate physiological responses to thermal stress; and to assess how temperature mediates direct interactions between native and invasive ladybirds.
Experimental approaches will include laboratory experiments using controlled temperature rooms and incubators and field trials. There will also be opportunities to investigate ladybird physiological responses to temperature at a cellular level, using metabolomics. Additionally, the large-scale and long-term datasets held by the Biological Records Centre within CEH will provide an opportunity for correlative modelling approaches to inform the mechanistic experimental approaches.
Training will be provided in experimental design, behavioural assays, insect biology, and data collection and analysis, as well as the presentation of results and writing scientific publications. There will be opportunities to investigate ladybird physiological responses to temperature at a genetic and cellular level, using transcriptomics and metabolomics; training will be provided.
Applicants should have an undergraduate degree in biology with a strong interest in insect biology and conservation.