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Nutritional ecology of carnivorous pitcher plants

Project Description

Reference number: CENTA20-LU9
Start date: 1 October 2020
Closing date: 10 January 2020
Interview date: Week beginning 3 February 2020

Loughborough University is a top-ten rated university in England for research intensity (REF2014). In choosing Loughborough for your research, you’ll work alongside academics who are leaders in their field. You will benefit from comprehensive support and guidance from our Doctoral College, including tailored careers advice, to help you succeed in your research and future career.

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Project Detail:

The carnivorous pitcher plant Sarracenia purpurea captures insect prey in pitchers formed from modified leaves. Prey are digested by a simple detritus-based food web that lives inside the pitchers. The nutrients from digested prey are then absorbed into the plant’s tissues and used for growth and reproduction. The aquatic communities which live in Sarracenia purpurea pitchers are model ‘micro-ecosystems’. In particular, comparison of how the plant and the pitcher community function in their native (North America) vs introduced (Europe) range is potentially a powerful approach for understanding how ecosystems function.

In this PhD you will investigate the nutritional ecology of these pitcher plants by studying prey capture, digestion and nutrient transfer to the plants. This will be achieved using simple approaches and by using molecular markers (stable isotopes) to track nutrients through the system. You may also use DNA barcoding to determine microbial community composition. Plants will be studied in controlled conditions in greenhouses, and in-situ in Europe and potentially North America.

This project will provide important stand-alone insights into plant nutrition. The project will also link into a wider international network of researchers investigating the Sarracenia purpurea micro-ecosystem. This provides outstanding opportunities for international collaboration and high-quality training.

Find out more:

For further information on this project, please see the main CENTA website ( and/or contact Dr Jonathan Millett ().

Entry requirements:

Applicants will normally need to hold, or expect to gain, at least a 2:1 degree (or equivalent) in Geography, Biology or Environmental Science. A Master’s degree and/or experience in a related area associated with the research will be an advantage.

How to apply:

To apply:

1. Complete a CENTA studentship application form in Word format (available from or here).
2. All applications should be made online at Under program name, select “Geography and Environment”. During the online application process, upload the CENTA studentship application form as a supporting document.

Please quote CENTA20-LU9 when completing your online application.

Funding Notes

The studentship is funded for 3.5 years and is intended to start in October 2020. The studentship provides a tax-free stipend of £15,009 per annum (in 2019/20) for the duration of the studentship plus tuition fees at the UK/EU rate (£4,327 in 2019/20) and a research training support grant of £8,000. Please note that due to restrictions imposed by the funder, only students with a UK/EU fee status will initially be considered for this position.

Further guidance about eligibility is available at UKRI Terms and Conditions: View Website

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