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Investigating the ripple effect in larval aquatic ectotherms exposed to heat stress

   School of Biology and Environmental Science

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  Assoc Prof Katharina Wollenberg Valero  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Project Description: Anthropogenic climate change is manifested through waves of heat stress. While researchers are now gaining a better understanding of the molecular responses to heat stress in diverse organisms, we have identified a new gap in our knowledge: heat-stressed larvae of aquatic ectotherms release chemical cues which can propagate the heat-induced stress the senders experience to others*. However, this “ripple effect” is not well researched yet, and its implications for aquatic ecosystems is unknown. Within the overarching MolStressH2O project funded by the European Research Council, this PhD project will aim to determine whether the ripple effect exists in different species, whether those chemical signals can be perceived across species boundaries, and what the implications are for later life stages.

The PhD student will perform behavioural experiments on heat- induced stress propagation with early stages of three model aquatic ectotherms, marine ragworms, tadpoles, and zebrafish, combined with transcriptomic analyses and the observation and measurements of later life stage effects.

Qualifications: Minimum educational background: BSc (honours) or MSc degree at 2.1 grade or above (or equivalent) in Biology, with research experience in (molecular) Ecology, evolutionary Biology, Genetics or similar fields. Basic computational/coding skills such as data analysis with R, and/or Python (or similar), are required.

Desirable: Desirable criteria are: prior experience with isolating, quantifying, and analyzing RNAseq or other gene expression data, experience in working with early stages, or specialization in fish biology, marine biology or herpetology.

The successful candidate should be enthusiastic, self-motivated and willing to learn new tools and technologies, and have a passion for understanding consequences of climate change As part of this PhD the candidate will be expected to demonstrate/assist in undergraduate practicals for the academic session.

Equality and diversity: UCD is committed to creating an environment where diversity is celebrated and everyone is treated fairly regardless of gender, age, race, disability, ethnic origin, religion, sexual orientation, civil status, family status, or membership of the travelling community (https://www.ucd.ie/equality/). Applications from all suitably qualified candidates will be considered.

About UCD: UCD, located in the cosmopolitan city of Dublin, Ireland, is one of the top universities in Europe - and is also ranked in the top 1% of higher education institutions worldwide. Our students love the UCD campus, a huge, spacious campus with lakes, woodland walks and wildlife close to Dubin's city centre.

UCD is the most international university in Ireland and welcomes hundreds of new international students every year. Specific information and support for international applicants including visa requirements is available here: https://www.ucd.ie/global/study-at-ucd/

Informal enquiries are welcome and should be made to Dr Katharina Wollenberg Valero ([Email Address Removed]).

To apply please e-mail [Email Address Removed] a single pdf document with

·       a detailed curriculum vitae describing any previous research experience,

·       a cover letter detailing your research interests and goals, and

·       the contact details (e-mail and phone number) of at least two academic referees.

·       Please reference “PhD Application – MolStressH2O-A” in the subject line of the email.

The deadline for applications is 3rd January 2023, target start date is May 1st, 2023.

Funding Notes

Stipend: The student will receive a tax-free stipend of €22,000 per year, full coverage of tuition fees and funds for laboratory work and conference travel. As part of the agreement, the student will be required to serve as demonstrator (Teaching Assistant) for a set number of hours each year, which will be paid on top of the stipend at the hourly rate(https://www.ucd.ie/hr/pay/hourlypaidemployees/hourlypaidrates/).


Feugere et al. 2021. Behavioural Stress Propagation in Benthic Invertebrates Caused by Acute pH Drop-Induced Metabolites. Frontiers in Marine Science, 8. https://doi.org/10.3389/fmars.2021.773870
Feugere et al. 2021. Thermal stress induces a positive phenotypic and molecular feedback loop in zebrafish embryos. Journal of Thermal Biology, 102, p.103114.
Feugere, L., Bates, A., Emagbetere, T., Chapman, E., Malcolm, L., Bulmer, K., Hardege, J., Beltran-Alvarez, P. and Valero, K.C.W., 2022. Heat induces multi-omic and phenotypic stress propagation in zebrafish embryos. bioRxiv. https://doi.org/10.1101/2022.09.15.508176
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