Many insects have important and persistent relationships (symbiosis) with bacteria. In some cases, the bacteria are known to protect their insect hosts against pathogens and parasites. This project will examine how an ecological community responds to the presence of protective symbiotic bacteria. The student will use aphids, along with their protective symbionts, food plants, and natural enemies, as a model system to explore questions in this area. For example, do natural enemy communities vary depending on the symbiont infections present? Can aphids carrying protective symbionts impact parasitism rates in their unprotected neighbours? And how might these interactions alter in times of environmental change?
This project will suit a candidate interested in using insects to address fundamental questions in ecology and evolution. You will be working with live insects in the field and in the laboratory, as well as using molecular biology to identify and characterise symbionts, and it’s important that you are happy to engage with all of these different elements to the project. You should have some experience in a relevant research environment (whether as part of undergraduate study or otherwise) but we recognise that these opportunities have been more limited than usual over the past two years.
Informal inquiries regarding the research project are welcomed and may be addressed by email to Dr Ailsa McLean at [Email Address Removed]. For enquiries relating to the application procedure please contact [Email Address Removed].