Plant-insect interactions in a changing world

   Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

   Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Project Overview: 

Insects associated with plants comprise one of the most diverse groups of species on earth. Their impact on the ecology and evolution of their host plants is widely recognised, as is their contribution to multiple important ecosystem services. While concerns have been raised about recent declines of insect populations, the wider consequences of such declines are largely unknown. The student embarking on this project will investigate a) the responses of focal insect taxa or guilds to one or several driver(s) of environmental change (e.g. habitat modification, climate change), and b) the ecological and/or evolutionary consequences of such responses (e.g. changes in ecosystem functions delivered by insects or changes in the evolutionary trajectories of their host plants due to altered biotic selection pressures). The project offers possibilities for both field- and literature-based studies. The project is suitable for students with an interest in insect or plant ecology: the specific details of the project will be developed in collaboration with the student and will depend on the interests and expertise of the student.  

Biological Interactions Group: 

The student will join the research group of Dr Sofia Gripenberg who is a Royal Society Research Fellow with a broad interest in community ecology and interspecific interactions. Current work in the group focuses primarily on plant-enemy interactions in tropical and temperate forest systems, with a special focus on herbivorous insects. 

School of Biological Sciences, University of Reading: 

The University of Reading, located west of London, England, provides world-class research education programs. The University’s main Whiteknights Campus is set in 130 hectares of beautiful parkland, a 30-minute train ride to central London and 40 minutes from London Heathrow airport.   

Our School of Biological Sciences conducts high-impact research, tackling current global challenges faced by society and the planet.  Our research ranges from understanding and improving human health and combating disease, through to understanding evolutionary processes and uncovering new ways to protect the natural world.  In 2020, we moved into a stunning new ~£60 million Health & Life Sciences building. This state-of-the-art facility is purpose-built for science research and teaching.  It houses the Cole Museum of Zoology, a café and social spaces. 

In the School of Biological Sciences, you will be joining a vibrant community of ~180 PhD students representing ~40 nationalities. Our students publish in high-impact journals, present at international conferences, and organise a range of exciting outreach and public engagement activities. 

During your PhD at the University of Reading, you will expand your research knowledge and skills, receiving supervision in one-to-one and small group sessions. You will have access to cutting-edge technology and learn the latest research techniques.  We also provide dedicated training in important transferable skills that will support your career aspirations. If English is not your first language, the University's excellent International Study and Language Institute will help you develop your academic English skills. 

The University of Reading is a welcoming community for people of all faiths and cultures.  We are committed to a healthy work-life balance and will work to ensure that you are supported personally and academically. 


Applicants should have a good degree (minimum of a UK Upper Second (2:1) undergraduate degree or equivalent) in biological sciences or a related discipline. Applicants will also need to meet the University’s English Language requirements. We offer pre-sessional courses that can help with meeting these requirements. 

How to apply: 

Submit an application for a PhD in Biological Sciences at 

Further information: 


Dr Sofia Gripenberg, email:  

Please see Dr Gripenberg’s profile: 

Dr Sofia Gripenberg – University of Reading 

Funding Notes

We welcome applications from students who want to apply for their own funding (e.g. through scholarships awarded by their home countries or international funding schemes) for this project.
If you are applying to an international funding scheme, we encourage you to get in contact as we may be able to support you in your application.


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