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Evolutionary Ecology of Transgenerational Epigenetic Inheritance (MAKLAKOV_UBIO22ARIES)

   School of Biological Sciences

Norwich United Kingdom Ecology Evolution Genetics Neuroscience Zoology

About the Project


Recent discoveries suggest that organisms may transfer environmentally induced phenotypic changes to their descendants non-genetically across many generations. This mode of information transfer, referred to as transgenerational epigenetic inheritance, is neither predicted nor included in standard evolutionary models. These sensational claims promise to change the way we think about evolutionary processes, as well as about the effect of the environment on populations in nature. Remarkably, despite the surge of interest in this type of transgenerational non-genetic inheritance, it is unclear whether its effects are adaptive or maladaptive – hence does this actually affect the overall direction and pace of evolutionary change? This project will answer these questions - by exploring how transgenerational epigenetic inheritance affects Darwinian fitness and testing whether they promote population viability in changing environments.


You will test for the role of transgenerational non-genetic inheritance in determining 1) fitness and ageing; 2) population viability; and 3) adaptive evolution. This will be done in response to ecologically relevant environmental variation, such as pathogens, heat waves and food shortage. You will use Caenorhabditis nematodes - the prime model for transgenerational epigenetic research where most of the exciting recent discoveries in this field were made. First, you will investigate how environmental perturbations affect Darwinian fitness of offspring in a wide range of environments. Second, you will use experimental evolution to study the role of transgenerational effects in adaptation to changing environments. The aim is to advance our understanding of whether transgenerational non-genetic inheritance improves or impairs the life of the future generations and to train a scientist in cutting-edge research in evolutionary biology/ecology.


You will gain a wide range of skills in experimental design, statistical analyses, coding, scientific writing, presentational skills, experimental evolution and molecular biology techniques. You will receive multi-disciplinary training in evolutionary ecology/biology and in bio-gerontology, thereby increasing opportunities for employability after the PhD. You will participate in career-enhancing external training courses and in-house research discussion groups and journal clubs.

Person specification

We are looking for an enthusiastic and highly motivated student with deep interest in one of the following fields of research: evolution, ecology, genetics

For more information please visit the supervisor's UEA webpage Alexei Maklakov — University of East Anglia (

The start date is 1 October 2022

Entry requirements: Acceptable first degree 2:1 in Evolution, Ecology, Genetics

Funding Notes

This project is funded by ARIES NERC DTP and will start on 1st October 2022.

Successful candidates who meet UKRI’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship covering fees, stipend (£15,609 p.a. for 2021-22) and research funding. International applicants (EU and non-EU) are eligible for fully-funded UKRI studentships.

ARIES students benefit from bespoke graduate training and £2,500 for external training, travel and conferences.

ARIES is committed to equality, diversity, widening participation and inclusion. Academic qualifications are considered alongside non-academic experience. Our recruitment process considers potential with the same weighting as past experience.

For information and full eligibility visit View Website


1) Ivimey-Cook ER, Sales K, Carlsson H, Immler S, Chapman T, Maklakov AA (2021) Transgenerational fitness effects of lifespan extension by dietary restriction in Caenorhabditis elegans. Proc R Soc B, in press
2) Lind MI, Zwoinska MK, Andersson J, Carlsson H, Krieg T, Larva T, Maklakov AA (2020) Environmental variation mediates the evolution of anticipatory parental effects. Evolution Letters, online,
3) Silva WTAF, Otto SP, Immler S (2021) Evolution of plasticity in production and transgenerational inheritance of small RNAs under dynamic environmental conditions. PLOS Genetics 17(5): e1009581.
4) Baugh LR, Day T (2020) Nongenetic inheritance and multigenerational plasticity in the nematode C. elegans. eLife, 9: e58498
5) Kaletsky, R., Moore, R.S., Vrla, G.D. et al. (2020) C. elegans interprets bacterial non-coding RNAs to learn pathogenic avoidance. Nature 586, 445–451.

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