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Ecological communities in a changing environment

Project Description

In an era of rapid environmental change predicting the future of ecological communities is vital if mitigation or adaptation is to be successful. Many current prediction methods concentrate on single species, but the understanding of the effects of the environment on individuals or single-species populations overlooks the interactions that characterise ecological communities. In this project you will use prior knowledge of individual interactions between two individual bacteria, mediated by contact-dependent inhibition (CDI), to scale up the effects of environmental change from individuals to complex communities.

This exciting PhD project will generate microcolonies of bacteria and quantify their growth into a biofilm. As the experiments will be small and rapid this will allow replication and statistical analysis of the effects of environmental change, in both time and space, on ecological communities. Previous work has used synthetic biology to establish a library of bacterial strains with known growth rates and with a range of CDI effects. These tools will be immediate availability to allow a rapid start to environmental manipulations.

The PhD will have four main aims:
1. Show the effect of a wide range of temporal and spatial variation in environment on microcolonies of interacting strains.
2. Assess and quantify the impact of temporal, growth and spatial heterogeneity on ecological communites with multiple bacterial strains.
3. Develop the, already established, in silico analogue using Python scripts adapting the agent-based modelling platform Cell Modeller.
4. Extrapolate to wider responses of ecological communities to spatial and temporal environmental variation.

The student will be based in the departments of Biology, Maths and the Hull-York Medical School at the University of York and will be a member of the NERC Doctoral Training Partnership in Adapting to the Challenges of a Changing Environment (ACCE), which is a partnership between the Universities of Sheffield, Liverpool and York, and NERC’s Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH).

Funding Notes

This NERC ACCE DTP studentship is fully funded for 3.5 years in the first instance, and students must complete their PhD in four years. The studentship covers: (i) a tax-free annual stipend at the standard Research Council rate (£15,009 for 2019-2020, but typically increases annually in line with inflation), (ii) research costs, and (iii) tuition fees at the UK/EU rate. You can extend your funding period for up to 3 months by applying for an industrial placement.


ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: Students with, or expecting to gain, at least an Upper Second Class Honours degree, or equivalent, are invited to apply. The interdisciplinary nature of this programme means that we welcome applications from students with backgrounds in any relevant subject that provides the necessary skills, knowledge and experience for the DTP, including environmental, biological, chemical, mathematical, physical and social sciences.

How good is research at University of York in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 44.37

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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