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Climate change, microbiota, and speciation

Institute of Integrative Biology

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Dr T Price , Dr J Ferrai , Dr Z Lewis No more applications being accepted Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

Aim: to understand the impact of high temperatures on gut microbes, and whether this will be a problem as the climate changes.

Background: Recent work has shown that the microbes found in and on organisms can have major impacts on where animals live, what they can eat, and how they resist pathogens. However, what has been underappreciated is how easily high temperatures can damage microbiota. Here we want to investigate whether ecologically relevant heatwave temperatures are sufficient to impair microbiota, and the consequences this has for the host animal.

In this project you will experimentally heat several species of Drosophila fruit flies to see how temperature affects their microbiota, and subsequent fertility and overall fitness. In particular, we are interested in whether impaired microbiota change animal scent profiles, and altering mate choice, and potentially breaking down reproductive barriers between species. You will verify this by collecting wild flies to examine whether real heatwaves do indeed damage their microbiota.

1. Understand how ecologically relevant heat shocks impact on the microbiota of flies, and their resulting fitness.
2. Focus on how this affects scent, female choice, and ability to prevent hybrid matings across six species.
3. Determine whether this interacts with the damage heat shocks do to male and female fertility/fecundity across species.

Skills: This project will involve fieldwork in Europe, laboratory experiments with Drosophila and microbes, molecular work, with the potential for genomics and modelling. The project will be based in the research team of Dr Tom Price at the University of Liverpool, in a dynamic and supportive environment.

Funding Notes

Competitive funding of tuition fee, research costs and stipend (£15,009 tax-free, 2019-20) from the NERC Doctoral Training Partnership “Adapting to the Challenges of a Changing Environment” (ACCE, ). ACCE – a collaboration between the Universities of Liverpool, Sheffield,and York – is the only dedicated ecology/evolution/conservation Doctoral Training Partnership in the UK.

Applications (CV, letter of application, 2 referees) by email to [Email Address Removed] deadline: January 8th 2020. Interviews in or after the week commencing : 10th February 2020. Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed for only one project from the ACCE partnership.


Walsh, B. S., Parratt, S. R., Hoffmann, A. A., Atkinson, D., Snook, R. R., Bretman, A., & Price, T. A. (2019). The Impact of Climate Change on Fertility. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 34 (3).

Verspoor, R. L., Smith, J. M., Mannion, N. L., Hurst, G. D., & Price, T. A. (2018). Strong hybrid male incompatibilities impede the spread of a selfish chromosome between populations of a fly. Evolution Letters, 2 (3), 169-179.

Heys, C., Lizé, A., Colinet, H., Price, T. A. R., Prescott, M., Ingleby, F., & Lewis, Z. (2018). Evidence that the microbiota counteracts male outbreeding strategy by inhibiting sexual signaling in females. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 6, 29.
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