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EASTBIO: Discovering the reciprocal effects of physiology and parental care using an integrative approach


   School of Biological Sciences

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  Dr N Pilakouta, Dr T Bodey  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

This fully funded, 4-year PhD project is part of a competition funded by the BBSRC EASTBIO Doctoral Training Partnership.

Background:

Parental care improves offspring fitness but is energetically demanding for the parents. A high investment in parental care may therefore have detrimental effects for the parents’ physiology, such as increased oxidative stress and telomere attrition [1]. In addition, the parents’ condition and physiology can influence their capacity to provide parental care [2]. For example, individuals that experience physiological stress prior to or during a breeding attempt might provide a lower level of care.

Project aims and impact:

Uncovering the complex relationship between physiology and parental care is especially important in light of climate change and other human-induced environmental changes that expose organisms to stressful conditions. This PhD project will address this knowledge gap using an integrative approach to investigate the reciprocal effects of physiology and parental care. These interactions are still poorly understood but are crucial for assessing population viability and performance. We will also test whether supplementation with antioxidants can potentially alleviate the physiological costs of parental care. This work could provide valuable insights into possible management strategies to moderate the physiological costs of care in animal populations. Lastly, this project has direct relevance to animal health as it investigates the molecular mechanisms linking reproduction to animal physiology.

Study system:

We will use an invertebrate model system, the burying beetle Nicrophorus vespilloides, which has facultative biparental care. This means that in some broods both parents provide care, whereas in other broods, there is female-only care, male-only care, or no care. This flexible parental care system provides an excellent opportunity to experimentally test the links between physiology and parental care.

Training:

The PhD student will employ a wide range of techniques integrating animal behaviour, physiology, and molecular biology. They will gain valuable skills in physiological assays, behavioural observations, animal husbandry, and statistical modelling. There will also be a strong focus on the student’s development of transferrable skills, such as project management, written communication, and oral communication.

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ELIGIBILITY:

  • Applicants should hold a minimum of a 2:1 UK Honours degree (or international equivalent) in a relevant subject. Those with a 2:2 UK Honours degree (or international equivalent) may be considered, provided they have (or are expected to achieve) a Distinction or Commendation at master’s level.
  • All students must meet the eligibility criteria as outlined in the UKRI guidance on UK, EU and international candidates. This guidance should be read in conjunction with the UKRI Training Grant Terms and Conditions, esp. TGC 5.2 & Annex B.

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APPLICATION PROCEUDRE:

  • Please visit this page for full application information: How to apply | eastbio (eastscotbiodtp.ac.uk)
  • Please send your completed EASTBIO application form, along with academic transcripts to Alison Innes at: [Email Address Removed]
  • Two references should be provided by the deadline using the EASTBIO reference form. References should be sent to [Email Address Removed]
  • Unfortunately, due to workload constraints, we cannot consider incomplete applications.
  • CV's submitted directly through a FindAPhD enquiry WILL NOT be considered.

Funding Notes

This fully funded, 4-year PhD project is part of a competition funded by the EASTBIO BBSRC Doctoral Training Partnership.
This opportunity is open to UK and International students (The proportion of international students appointed through the EASTBIO DTP is capped at 30% by UKRI BBSRC).
EASTBIO studentships includes a UKRI doctoral stipend (estimated at £17,668 for the 2023/2024 academic year), plus a training grant of £5,000 per annum (year 1-3; £1,500 year 4) and a travel/conference grant of £230 per annum.
EASTBIO does not provide funding to cover visa and associated healthcare surcharges for international students.

References

[1] Merkling T, Blanchard P, Chastel O, Glauser G, Vallat‐Michel A, Hatch SA, Danchin E, Helfenstein F (2017) Reproductive effort and oxidative stress: effects of offspring sex and number on the physiological state of a long‐lived bird. Functional Ecology 31:1201-9.
[2] Pilakouta N, Richardson J, Smiseth PT (2015) State-dependent cooperation in burying beetles: parents adjust their contribution towards care based on both their own and their partner’s size. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 28:1965–1974.
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