We now live in a world of rapidly changing environmental conditions where species will need to adapt or perish. While populations may evolve in response to environmental change, more rapid responses may happen through processes like phenotypic plasticity. Phenotypic plasticity is a fundamental principle in evolutionary biology and refers to the ability of a given organism to produce different phenotypes in changing environments. Plasticity has evolved because it is adaptive through optimizing the trajectory of development given current and anticipated future environments, thus increasing individual fitness.
While the existence of plasticity has been demonstrated in a variety of organisms, we lack explicit tests of predictions of whether and how plasticity is adaptive given current and future conditions. Further, we know very little about the mechanisms underlying plastic responses to changing environmental conditions but predict that epigenetic changes play a key role.
This project seeks to establish the fitness and developmental consequences of plasticity under changing conditions of the dietary and habitat environment and search for correlated responses in the epigenome. Selection experiments coupled with molecular methods will be used to test predictions, for example about the effects of poor versus good conditions in early and adult environment on development and fitness. We use daphnia, cockroaches or aphids as model systems. We next wish to investigate how responses to changing environments are manifest at the epigenome level by analysing patterns of methylation and histone modifications. Thus, the project tackles the key question of how rapidly changing environments impact on future development and offers a great opportunity to work on phenotypic plasticity and epigenetics testing key hypothesis in behavioural and evolutionary ecology.
Training/techniques to be provided:
The student will be trained in core biological skills ranging from experimental design, in-vivo techniques to statistical analysis as well as the emerging field of epigenetics. This project offers the unique opportunity to work at the forefront of epigenetics research linked to challenges caused by rapid changes in the environment, which are core areas identified by research councils in the UK (BBSRC, NERC) and the US (NIH).
Candidates are expected to hold (or be about to obtain) a minimum upper second class honours degree (or equivalent) in a related area/subject. Candidates with previous laboratory experience, particularly in cell culture and molecular biology, are particularly encouraged to apply.
How To Apply
For information on how to apply for this project, please visit the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health Doctoral Academy website (https://www.bmh.manchester.ac.uk/study/research/apply/). Informal enquiries may be made directly to the primary supervisor. On the online application form select PhD Genetics
For international students, we also offer a unique 4 year PhD programme that gives you the opportunity to undertake an accredited Teaching Certificate whilst carrying out an independent research project across a range of biological, medical and health sciences.
Equality, Diversity and Inclusion
Equality, diversity and inclusion is fundamental to the success of The University of Manchester, and is at the heart of all of our activities. The full Equality, diversity and inclusion statement can be found on the website https://www.bmh.manchester.ac.uk/study/research/apply/equality-diversity-inclusion/”
For international students we also offer a unique 4 year PhD programme that gives you the opportunity to undertake an accredited Teaching Certificate whilst carrying out an independent research project across a range of biological, medical and health sciences. For more information please visit www.internationalphd.manchester.ac.uk