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Development, evolution and genomics of seasonal plasticity in African butterflies


Faculty of Health and Life Science

About the Project

We are seeking an enthusiastic student with passion for evolution and ecology to investigate how African butterflies adapt to seasonal habitats. These butterflies adjust morphology, behaviour and life cycle to alternating wet and dry seasons. This adaptation—‘phenotypic plasticity’—is widespread in tropical and temperate areas, wherever seasons differ in ecological opportunities.

While we know a great deal about why plasticity can be adaptive, we know much less about how plastic responses are accomplished, and how these mechanisms evolve. What are the genes and developmental pathways that allow an organism to respond to its environment? How have these mechanisms evolved when species invade new habitats, or are faced with environmental change? How does plasticity affect future adaptation, for instance to climate change? African Bicyclus butterflies are a great system to study these questions. Species have repeatedly evolved plasticity upon invasions of savannahs from forests, allowing comparative analyses at the phenotypic, developmental and genomic level.

The project can be tailored to your specific interests, but would likely involve a broad range of techniques. This includes rearing butterflies in the lab, developmental and genetic experiments, computational analyses of whole-genome DNA sequences, and potentially field work in Africa (depending on funding). The project benefits from established lab populations, promising preliminary data, and new genomic resources.

You will join a newly established laboratory investigating plasticity and rapid adaptation under climate change (Oostra), with active collaborations in butterfly biology across Europe, Africa and South America. The lab is part of the Department of Evolution, Ecology and Behaviour, a vibrant and successful community of biologists. You will benefit from excellent co-supervisors Saccheri (Liverpool) and Nadeau (Sheffield), with broad expertise in evolutionary biology, genomics, and butterflies.

Interests and skills should include some of the following: evolutionary ecology; phylogenetic analyses; developmental or molecular biology; genomics; bioinformatics; butterflies.

We strongly encourage you to get in touch informally before you apply, so we can have a chat and you can ask any questions you might have about the project or your application: .


HOW TO APPLY

Notes and how to apply are available here: https://acce.shef.ac.uk/phd-opportunities-at-liverpool/

Funding Notes

NERC ACCE DTP in Ecology and Evolution, programme starts October 2021.

UKRI provide the following funding for 3.5 years:
• Stipend (2020/21 UKRI rate £15,285)
• Tuition Fees at UK fee rate (2020/21 rate £4,407)
• Research support and training grant (RTSG)

Note - UKRI funding only covers UK fees (£4,407 at 2020/2021 rate). A limited number of international fee bursaries will be awarded on a competitive basis. However, if selected International and EU fee rate candidates may need to cover the remaining amount of tuition fees by securing additional funding. International fees for 2020/21 entry were £23,650 per annum.

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