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  Adaptation to environmental change in animals: ecology, evolution and genomics.

   School of Life Sciences

   Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

How are animals able to live in different environments, with different temperatures, energetic demands, diet, predators, parasites or pH? Thanks to advances in gene sequencing technology, we are in a remarkable period of discovery about the genomic basis of adaptation and how this depends on the intricacies of ecology and environment. The MacColl lab at the University of Nottingham is seeking dynamic and motivated research students to investigate how animals colonise and adapt to novel environments, and what factors might prevent them from doing so. We encourage multidisciplinary, international projects that address novel and exciting questions about the ecology and evolution of wild animals.

Most of the research in the MacColl lab uses the three-spined stickleback, Gasterosteus aculeatus, as a model species, but proposals involving other species are welcome. The stickleback is a small temperate fish that is distributed across the northern hemisphere in marine and freshwater environments. It has a high quality genome sequence, a well understood ecology and excellent genetic resources, making it an outstanding model for studying the genomic basis of adaptation e.g. to different biotic and abiotic environments. We carry out much of our research on the Scottish island of North Uist where there is enormous phenotypic variation between populations inhabiting different aquatic environments. Your project is likely to combine ecological fieldwork, fish-keeping and behavioural experiments with cutting-edge bioinformatics and physiological assays to examine variation within and between diverse stickleback populations.

Projects will be based in the MacColl lab at the University of Nottingham,, a friendly, dynamic and well-funded group, embedded in a wider cohesive group of ecologists and evolutionary biologists in the School of Life Sciences.

For further details please contact Andrew MacColl, .

The University of Nottingham is one of the world’s most respected research-intensive universities, ranked 8th in the UK for research power (REF 2014). Students studying in the School of Life Sciences will have the opportunity to thrive in a vibrant, multidisciplinary environment, with expert supervision from leaders in their field, state-of-the-art facilities and strong links with industry. Students are closely monitored in terms of their personal and professional progression throughout their study period and are assigned academic mentors in addition to their supervisory team. The School provides structured training as a fundamental part of postgraduate personal development and our training programme enables students to develop skills across the four domains of the Vitae Researcher Development Framework (RDF). During their studies, students will also have the opportunity to attend and present at conferences around the world. The School puts strong emphasis on the promotion of postgraduate research with a 2-day annual PhD research symposium attended by all students, plus academic staff and invited speakers.

Biological Sciences (4) Medicine (26)


Magalhaes, I.S.; Whiting, J.R.; D’Agostino, D.; Hohenlohe; P.A.; Bell, M.; Skúlason, S. & MacColl A.D.C. (2021) Intercontinental genomic parallelism in adaptive radiations. Nature Ecology & Evolution. 5: 251-261.
Whiting, J.R.; Mahmud, M.; Bradley, J.E. & MacColl, A.D.C. (2020) Prior exposure to long-day photoperiods alters immune responses and increases susceptibility to parasitic infection in stickleback. Proc. Roy. Soc. B. 287: 20201017
Dean, L.L.; Magalhaes, I.S.; Foote, A.; D’Agostino, D.; McGowan, S. & MacColl, A.D.C. (2019) Admixture between ancient lineages, selection, and the formation of sympatric stickleback species-pairs. Mol. Biol. Evol. 36: 2481-2497.
Haenel, Q.; Roesti, M.; Moser, D.; MacColl, A.D.C. & Berner D. (2019) Predictable genome-wide sorting of ancestral variation during parallel adaptation to basic versus acidic environments in stickleback fish. Evolution Letters 3: 28-42.
Whiting, J.R.; Magalhaes, I.S.; Robertson, S.; D’Agostino, D.; Bradley, J.E. & MacColl, A.D.C. (2018) A genetics-based approach confirms immune associations with life history across multiple populations of an aquatic vertebrate (Gasterosteus aculeatus). Mol. Ecol. 27: 3174-3191.
Mahmud, M.A.; Bradley, J.E. & MacColl, A.D.C. (2017) Abiotic environmental variation drives virulence evolution in a fish host-parasite geographic mosaic. Func. Ecol. 31: 2138-2146.
El Nagar, A. & MacColl, A.D.C. (2016) Parasites contribute to ecologically dependent postmating isolation in the adaptive radiation of three-spined stickleback. Proc. Roy. Soc. B. 283: 1-7.
Magalhaes, I.S., D’Agostino, D., Hohenlohe, P.A. & MacColl A.D.C. (2016) The ecology of an adaptive radiation of three-spined stickleback from North Uist, Scotland. Mol. Ecol. 25: 4319-4336.

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