Niche Evolution in a Warming World
Supervisors: Dr Lesley Lancaster, Professor Michael Ritchie (St Andrews) and Professor Jorgen Ripa (Lund)
Many organisms are currently responding to climate change with dramatic shifts in their geographic ranges and ecological niches. However, the mechanisms underlying these biotic consequences of rapidly changing climates remain poorly understood. It is critical to improve our understanding in this area of research, as many pests and disease-carrying species are currently expanding under global climate change, while other, less rapidly evolving species face extinction. In this PhD project, the student will investigate a number of hypothetical evolutionary trajectories that could underlie or constrain rapid niche shifts occurring during climate-induced range expansions. This represents an exciting opportunity to contribute to scientific understanding of evolution under environmental change and to develop knowledge to inform conservation and management. Specifically, the project will investigate how shifts in a species’ resource use traits, climate tolerances, and dispersal abilities contribute to niche evolution, and will seek to characterise evolutionary trade-offs among these traits that my constrain a species’ ability to adapt to a rapidly-changing world. There will be ample opportunity for the student to propose and test their own hypotheses for niche evolution mechanisms, incorporating additional processes and effects such as mating system evolution, indirect genetic effects, epigenetics, etc., following the research interests of the student.
The PhD project offers opportunity to learn a variety of important methods in evolutionary biology, including experimental evolution/quantitative genetics in lab-based organisms (using seed beetles, a currently evolving global crop pest), individual-based modelling approaches, and offers opportunities for field ecology approaches in northeast Scotland, to allow the student to become familiar with evolutionary and ecological dynamics in wild, evolving insect systems.
This project is eligible for the EASTBIO Doctoral Training Partnership: http://www.eastscotbiodtp.ac.uk/.
This opportunity is only open to UK nationals (or EU students who have been resident in the UK for at least three years immediately prior to the programme start date) due to restrictions imposed by the funding body.
1. Bebber, D.P. et al. (2013) Crop pests and pathogens move polewards in a warming world. Nature Climate Change 3: 985-988.
2. Ackerly, D.D. et al. (2006) Niche evolution and adaptive radiation: Testing the order of trait divergence.
3. Tuda, M. et al. (2006) Evolutionary diversification of the bean beetle Callosobruchus (Coleoptera: Bruchidae): traits associated with stored-product pest status. Molecular Ecology 15: 3541-3551.