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Evolutionary drivers of niche dynamics in invasive weeds

   School of Science

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  Dr Akane Uesugi, Dr Keyne Monro  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Our lab is seeking a highly motivated student to undertake a fully funded three-year PhD project through RMIT University (Melbourne, Australia) on local adaptation in invasive weeds. 

Many invasive species are known to exploit novel ecological niches, which are not part of their ancestral niches. When and why do invasive populations expand their niches? This project explores ecological and evolutionary hypotheses of niche expansion in invasive capeweed (Arctotheca calendula) in Australia. The invasive Australian capeweed is broadly distributed from wet southern coast to dry inland. We found, so far, that the capeweed populations are adapted to their local aridity environments, and that they have genetically diverged in several morphological, phenological, physiological and chemical traits that mediate drought resistance. This capeweed system is highly amenable to manipulative experiments in the field and greenhouse, and provides an ideal opportunity to explore a range of questions related to adaptation in novel environments, including: 1) Does aridity drive parallel patterns of clinal divergence between native and invasive populations? 2) Does local adaptation drive niche shifts in the invasive range? 3) Do invasive populations have adaptive (evolutionary) potential for further niche expansion? The PhD project may involve: 1) field seed collection, 2) greenhouse and field transplant experiments, 3) plant physiology and chemical analyses, 4) quantitative genetics analyses, and 5) molecular analyses.

Applicates should have research experience equivalent to research honours or masters with a first-class grade to be eligible. A strong background in evolutionary biology and ability to work independently in the field setting is desirable. The student will be supervised by Akane Uesugi (RMIT U) and Keyne Monro (Monash U).

To apply, please send a CV/resume and a cover letter that includes a statement of interest and relevant experience to Akane Uesugi (akane.uesugi[at] For further details of the project or any questions, please send an informal email. Review of applications will start Feb 1, 2022, and continue until the position is filled.

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