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Assessing Sensitivity to Fluctuating Temperatures in Marine Animals

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  • Full or part time
    Dr O Tills
    Dr M Truebano Garcia
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About This PhD Project

Project Description

Within the context of climate change, marine animals are experiencing increased frequency and intensity of thermal extremes, alongside an increase in mean sea surface temperatures. These temperature fluctuations can amplify the impacts of directional warming, yet recent work has focused largely on understanding responses to static environments, with the biological impacts of fluctuating environmental regimes remaining poorly understood. Environmental sensitivity to fluctuating thermal regimes varies between life history stages, with impacts ranging from changes in maternal investment, behaviour, physiology, growth and reproduction. Furthermore, during the process of early development, the most dynamic (temporally, functionally and spatially) period of an organisms’ life history, environmental sensitivity can be particularly heightened and vary over even short time periods. Consequently, there is an increasing importance to assess the biological impacts of fluctuating thermal environments across an organism’s life cycle and for this assessment to adopt a holistic approach drawing on the study of a wide breadth of types of biological response.

This project aims to investigate the impact of fluctuating environmental temperatures on different life-history stages. This will be done by addressing the following questions:
1) What impact does maternal exposure to a fluctuating thermal environment have on reproductive strategy and offspring development?
2) How does molecular and phenotypic sensitivity to fluctuating thermal environments compare at embryonic, free swimming larva and adult life history stages?
3) What is the relative importance of the frequency, amplitude and timing of thermal fluctuations on biological responses at different life history stages?
4) To what extent can laboratory studies be used to predict sensitivity in the natural environment?
Two of the greatest issues in incorporating environmental heterogeneity within experimental biology are technical limitations in the ability to simulate the conditions that animals experience in situ and the analytical ability to capture and interpret complex biological responses in such complex environments. UoP has a unique facility for EmbryoPhenomics (www.embryophenomics.org) encompassing technologies for the High Dimensional Organismal Phenotyping of aquatic embryos and larvae alongside simulation of fluctuating thermal regimes and this capability will be central to this project.

This project will adopt an integrative approach to assessing the impact of fluctuating thermal environments across life history stages at the level of both the phenome (all of an organisms’ observable characteristics) and proteome (inducible and constitutive heat shock proteins). The project will also capitalise on state-of-the-art deployable technologies for assessing the biological responses of organisms in the field remotely. These technologies will enable a direct comparison of thermal sensitivity predicted by models developed using high-throughput laboratory screening with the actual responses of organisms within the environmental heterogeneity of the natural environment.

For full details and information on how to apply please go to: https://www.plymouth.ac.uk/student-life/your-studies/research-degrees/postgraduate-research-studentships/assessing-sensitivity-to-fluctuating-temperatures-in-marine-animals
Closing date for applications: 12 noon, Friday 29th May 2020.


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