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QUADRAT DTP: An evo-devo approach to understand resilience to climate change


About the Project

>> The Evo-Devo Approach
Predicting how species will fare with climate change is intrinsically coupled to evolutionary and developmental processes. In order to predict adaptation potential or, ’evolvability’, the genetic control of a trait, which is developmentally programmed, and its natural variation within and between closely related species must be understood [1,2]. By studying evolution and developmental biology together and comparing results between closely related species, the evo-devo field provides rich examples of generating such understanding. Access to new methods previously constrained to ’model’ systems, that the evo-devo field is now pioneering in ’non-model’ groups, holds great promise for environmental research.

>> The System
Crepidula fornicata is a marine calcifier inhabiting coastal regions vulnerable to climatic changes such as warming and ocean acidification (OA). Recent OA experiments have shown C. fornicata are surprisingly resilient to severely acidified conditions [3]. These findings, in combination with the history of embryological study in this species, makes it an ideal system to probe questions of resilience and adaptation to climate change.

>> The Question
This studentship will take the powerful evo-devo approach and apply it to questions of major environmental significance. You will compare shell development in C. fornicata to three closely related species within the genus Crepidula to address the following question:

What developmental mechanisms regulate the shell traits (e.g. strength, microstructures and thickness) that give C. fornicata superior resilience to ocean acidification compared to its most closely related relatives?

>> The Places
You will be based in the Sleight Lab ( at the University of Aberdeen, a supportive and dynamic environment where curiosity is encouraged and nurtured. In the Sleight Lab you will be part of a passionate team working with world-leading experts whilst having the mountains and ocean on your doorstep. You will spend time working with your supervisors at both Queens University Belfast and the Institute of Aquaculture at the University of Stirling. You will have the opportunity to conduct field work in Woods Hole, USA and Portaferry, Northern Ireland. You will be encouraged and supported to apply for international summer schools for advanced training (such as the world-famous Embryology Course at the Marine Biology Laboratory in Woods Hole), and attend international conferences to present your research.

>> The Training and Opportunities
Prior experience is not required and you will receive rigorous training in bioinformatics, histology, molecular biology and advanced imaging. You will publish your findings in leading research journals and graduate with a track-record apt for a career in academia, industry or wider fields.

More project details are available here:

How to apply:

Funding Notes

QUADRAT studentships are open to UK and international candidates (EU and non-EU). Funding will cover UK tuition fees/stipend/research & training support grant only.

Before applying please check full funding and eligibility information: View Website


[1.] Campbell et al. (2017) Conservation evo-devo: preserving biodiversity by understanding its origins. Trends Ecol Evol.

[2.] Simpson. (2002) Evolution of development in closely related species of flies and worms. Nat Rev Genet.

[3.] Kriefall et al. (2018) Resilience of Crepidula fornicata larvae in the face of severe coastal acidification. Front Mar Sci.

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