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Epigenetic Interplay: How Maternal and Paternal Effects Interact in Australian Crickets. PhD in Biosciences (SWBio DTP)

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Monday, December 02, 2019
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Lead Supervisor
Dr Bram Kuijper, Department of Biosciences, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter

Additional Supervisors
- Prof Chris Bass, Department of Biosciences, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter
- Dr Barbara Tschirren, Department of Biosciences, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter
- Dr Sinead English, School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol

Location: University of Exeter, Penryn Campus, Penryn, Cornwall, TR10 9FE

Programme Overview
The South West Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (SWBio DTP http://www.swbio.ac.uk/) is led by the University of Bristol, together with the Universities of Bath, Cardiff and Exeter, alongside Rothamsted Research. These institutions represent a distinctive group of bioscience research staff and students, with established international, national and regional networks, and widely recognised research excellence.

For more information about the programme structure, please visit https://www.swbio.ac.uk/programme/

Funding for 2020/21
These studentships are available to UK and EU nationals who have established UK residency (EU nationals must have ordinarily lived in the UK throughout the three years preceding the start of the studentship).

The four core universities (Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter) have a very limited number of fully-funded four year studentships for EU students who do not meet the residency requirements (1-2 studentships per university)*. Please contact the relevant university for more information.

*These are not available for CASE DTP studentships or Standard DTP studentships with a collaborative partner


Project Description:

Are you interested in learning more about insect molecular genetics while at the same time enriching your CV with key data science and other computational skills? This exciting project focuses on evolutionary computational models and experimental tests of nongenetic inheritance through fathers in the cricket Teleogryllus oceanicus.

While it is well known that mothers transfer – next to their genes – various nongenetic factors to their young (e.g., hormones, DNA methylation variants and small RNAs), fathers in most animals are thought to transfer nothing but genes to offspring. However, this view is now increasingly untenable given recent studies which show that fathers influence offspring phenotypes via DNA methylation or small RNAs. A clear example of such paternal influences occurs in the cricket Teleogryllus oceanicus, in which fathers transfer a spermatophore (a large clump of foam) to females during mating which affects offspring viability. The aim of this interdisciplinary project is to understand why and how paternal effects influence offspring phenotypes through a combination of computational modeling, selection experiments and RNA sequencing in Teleogryllus oceanicus.

Below we suggest three components of this project, but encourage the student to develop their own components according to their interests:

Computational models of paternal effects: as we still have a limited understanding of whether paternal effects are a general phenomenon in the animal kingdom, this part of the project allows the student to learn computational techniques with which to model the evolution of paternal effects across a range of biological scenarios. Such models allow you to make general predictions about the ecological contexts and molecular mechanisms that are most conducive to paternal effects.

Selection experiments of paternal versus maternal effects and their interaction: with these computational predictions in hand, we then create selection lines of Teleogryllus oceanicus to assess how maternal and paternal effects interact. We can do so by artificially selecting for diverging spermatophore characteristics, so that lines become different in features such as spermatophore size and transcriptome profile. Using other lines, we can also artificially select for different characteristics of ova. Ultimately, by crossing spermatophore and ova selection lines, we can then achieve much-needed insight on how maternal and paternal effects interact in shaping the transcriptome and subsequent survival of the developing zygote.

Transcriptome bioinformatics: using state-of-the-art bioinformatics techniques we analyze the gene expression levels in spermatophores and ova of these selection lines to assess divergence in paternal versus maternal effects.

Eligibility

To be eligible for a fully-funded studentship, you must meet both the academic and residence criteria in line with UKRI guidelines. Please see the following webpage for further details https://www.swbio.ac.uk/programme/eligibility/.

A fully-funded four year SWBio DTP studentship will cover

• a stipend at the standard Research Council UK rate; currently £15,009 per annum for 2019-2020
• research and training costs
• tuition fees (at the standard Research Councils UK rate)
• additional funds to support fieldwork, conferences and a 3-month internship

Funding Notes

SWBio DTP funded studentship available for September 2020 entry. The studentship will provide funding of fees and a stipend which is currently £15,009 per annum for 2019-20, on a full time basis.

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