QUADRAT DTP: How does the holobiome respond to climate change? Discovering how microbe-host interactions promote or hinder natural range shifts in damselflies.

   School of Biological Sciences

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  Prof Lesley Lancaster, Prof C Creevey  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

This fully funded, 42-month PhD project is part of the QUADRAT Doctoral Training Partnership.

As climates warm, many species are now able to colonise new regions poleward of their ancestral geographic ranges. In some cases, range shifting negatively affects local communities, for instance if newcomers out-compete native residents or transmit new diseases. In addition, there is high variability among taxa in range shifting rates, meaning that some species are more vulnerable to future warming, if they are unable to track changing climates. Thus, understanding the mechanisms that promote or hinder range shifts remains an important and open question for improving future biodiversity and ecosystem services in a changing world, and to advance our fundamental understanding of ecological and evolutionary processes.

One important aspect of individual life history that is gaining increasing attention for impacting wider ecological processes is the concept of the holobiont: a single macroscopic host organism together with the wider community of microscopic organisms that colonise it (Koide, 2022). This may include bacteria, archaea, viruses, fungi, and animals that function as parasites, symbionts, and commensals which together can influence changes in host behaviour, physiology, or even morphology. The holobiont may therefore be critical for understanding variation in range shifting rates among host organisms, for instance via interactive impacts on dispersal ability, mating success, environmental tolerances, and habitat selection in new environments. However, this hypothesis has received little attention to date, providing the student with the opportunity to produce ground-breaking research on this topic.

The student will join an existing project team consisting of 3 postdocs and a network of academic collaborators from the UK, Sweden, Finland, Australia, and New Zealand, who are currently researching the evolutionary genetics of range shifting in the common blue tailed damselfly (Ischnura elegans). This species is rapidly shifting to higher latitudes in Northern Europe in response to climate change. We have already identified genetic changes (Dudaniec et al. 2018, 2022) and changes in microbial symbionts (Deng et al. 2021) associated with this range shift. We further recently sampled additional, parallel range shift transects for I. elegans in Great Britain, Norway, Sweden, and Finland, with the aim to understand how genetic and community differences explain variation in range shifting success. The student will join the team to contribute knowledge on the holobiont, how it shifts across latitudes and with organismal development, and how these patterns relate to changes in dispersal and population characteristics along the four transects. There will be ample opportunity for fieldwork, networking with academic and non-academic partners and stakeholders, and creative freedom for the student to develop their own project directions.

The supervisory and project team will provide support and training in evolutionary ecology, population ecology, microbial ecology, and techniques in genetics, bioinformatics, statistical analysis, and eco-evolutionary modelling. The project will combine fieldwork, molecular genetics, and modelling to explain how holobiont turnover interacts with species’ responses to climate change. Project partner Buglife will further offer a 3-month internship to provide the student with experience in a more applied research and outreach setting.

For all informal inquiries, please contact Professor Lesley Lancaster ([Email Address Removed]).

Candidate Background:

The position is open to students with a demonstratable interest in investigating the ecological and evolutionary dynamics of range shifting organisms, and how these dynamics may be impacted by species interactions. Such interest should be demonstrated through their cover letter, describing their ideas and interests and how these developed from their previous readings or research. Any previous experience with data handling and analytical or modelling approaches should also be described in the application.

Candidates should have, or expect to achieve, a minimum of a 2.1 Honours degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject. Applicants with a minimum of a 2.2 Honours degree may be considered providing they have a Distinction at Masters level.

We encourage applications from all backgrounds and communities, and are committed to having a diverse, inclusive team.



  • Please visit this page for full application information: How To Apply – QUADRAT
  • Please send your completed application form, along with academic transcripts to [Email Address Removed]
  • Please ensure that two written references from your referees are submitted. It is your responsibility to ensure these are provided, as we will not request references on your behalf.
  • Unfortunately, due to workload constraints, we cannot consider incomplete applications.
  • CV's submitted directly through a FindAPhD enquiry WILL NOT be considered.
  • If you require any additional assistance in submitting your application or have any queries about the application process, please don't hesitate to contact us at [Email Address Removed]
Biological Sciences (4)

Funding Notes

This opportunity is open to UK and International students (The proportion of international students appointed through the QUADRAT DTP is capped at 30% by UKRI NERC).
Funding covers:
• A monthly stipend for accommodation and living costs, based on UKRI rates (£18,622 for the 23/24 academic year. Stipend rates for the 24/25 academic year have not been set yet)
• Tuition Fees
• Research and training costs
QUADRAT DTP does not provide funding to cover visa and associated healthcare surcharges for international students.


Wolbachia-driven selective sweep in a range expanding insect species
J Deng, G Assandri, P Chauhan, R Futahashi, A Galimberti, B Hansson, LT Lancaster, Y Takahashi, EI Svensson, A Duplouy
BMC Ecology and Evolution 21 (181)
Signatures of local adaptation along environmental gradients in a range‐expanding damselfly (Ischnura elegans)
RY Dudaniec, CJ Yong, LT Lancaster, EI Svensson, B Hansson
Molecular Ecology 27 (11), 2576-2593
On Holobionts, Holospecies, and Holoniches: the Role of Microbial Symbioses in Ecology and Evolution
Roger T. Koide
Microbial Ecology (2022)

Where will I study?