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Understanding phase transformations in migratory armyworms

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, March 29, 2019
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Armyworms comprise some of the most devastating crop pests globally, including the invasive Fall armyworm, which is currently spreading across Africa and Asia. A key attribute of many armyworm species is the capacity to change their phenotype (morphology, behaviour, physiology, etc.) in response to appropriate environmental cues, so producing solitaria and gregaria phenotypes adapted to solitary and crowded conditions.

The aim of this PhD studentship is to gain a greater understanding of this ‘phase polyphenism’ phenomenon in armyworms, using a combination of behavioural, physiological, molecular, statistical and modelling approaches.

Specifically, the project will address the following key questions:
1. What are the evolutionary drivers of phase polyphenism in insects?
2. What are the key environmental cues triggering armyworms to switch from the benign solitaria state into the more invasive and voracious gregaria state?
3. What are the consequences of this phase transition from solitaria to gregaria for the behavior, morphology, and physiology of the armyworms?
4. What are the molecular mechanisms underpinning this phase transition?

As part of this project, the student will spend 3 – 6 months based at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences in Shenzhen, China conducting molecular work. Dr Yutao Xiao will be an additional supervisor on this project.

Funding Notes

Applicants should hold a minimum of a UK Honours Degree at 2:1 level or equivalent in subjects such as Ecology, Agronomy, Zoology or Entomology.

Full studentships (UK/EU tuition fees and stipend (£15,009 2019/20 [tax free])) for UK/EU students for 3.5 years. Unfortunately funding is not available for International (non EU) students.

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