University of Portsmouth Featured PhD Programmes
Anglia Ruskin University ARU Featured PhD Programmes

Epigenetic mechanisms of phenotypic plasticity and the evolution of adaptive responses

Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health

About the Project

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).

Funding Notes

Candidates are expected to have at least a 2:1 or equivalent foreign degree classification in a biological discipline including Biology, Zoology, Natural Sciences, and Molecular Biology. Experience in molecular techniques and an interest in evolutionary biology is essential.

This project has a Band 2 fee. Details of our different fee bands can be found on our website (View Website). For information on how to apply for this project, please visit the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health Doctoral Academy website (View Website).

Informal enquiries may be made directly to the primary supervisor.


Simon JC et al. 2011. Genomics of environmentally induced phenotypes in 2 extremely plastic arthropods. J Hered 102:512-525

Luquet E, Tariel J. 2016. Offspring reaction norms shaped by parental environment: interaction between within- and trans-generational plasticity of inducible defenses. BMC Evolutionary Biology 16(1): 209.

Levis NA, Pfennig DW. 2016. Evaluating plasticity first evolution in nature: key criteria and empirical approaches. TREE 31:563-574

Email Now

Insert previous message below for editing? 
You haven’t included a message. Providing a specific message means universities will take your enquiry more seriously and helps them provide the information you need.
Why not add a message here

The information you submit to The University of Manchester will only be used by them or their data partners to deal with your enquiry, according to their privacy notice. For more information on how we use and store your data, please read our privacy statement.

* required field

Your enquiry has been emailed successfully

Search Suggestions

Search Suggestions

Based on your current searches we recommend the following search filters.

FindAPhD. Copyright 2005-2021
All rights reserved.