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Using citizen science and landscape genomics to understand how interactions between species impact range expansion


Project Description

As species’ ranges shift in response to human-induced global changes they are likely to come into contact and compete with species that they had not encountered previously. Most research on these novel competitive interactions focuses on the effect of competition for limiting resources, but an emerging body of work shows that social competition for territories or mates can be intense between species even when competition for resources is low. How will such social competition impact the outcome of range shifts in a rapidly changing world? For this project, the student will explore the impact of social competition between species on range expansion in rubyspot damselflies, a model system for studying the consequences of behavioural interference between species.

In smoky rubyspots—a species that ranges throughout much of Central and North America—many populations have dark wings that make them look different from other species of rubyspot damselflies with which they coexist. As a result, smoky rubyspot individuals with dark wings experience less territorial and reproductive competition with other sympatric rubyspot species. For this studentship, the student will take a leading role in a developing citizen science project (https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/smoky-rubyspots) to quantify geographic variation in male and female wing colour. In addition, the student will employ landscape genomics analyses to test whether smoky rubyspot populations that have dark wings, and which therefore experience less competition with other rubyspot species, have expanded across the landscape more rapidly than populations in which individuals look like other rubyspots with which they coexist.

The student would gain a number of highly transferrable skills, such as bioinformatics techniques, genomics wet lab experience, data organisation and management, and coding.

Keywords: Population genomics, phylogeography, citizen science, range expansion, competitive exclusion, landscape genomics

Applicants are encouraged to contact Dr Drury by 13 December 2019, at the latest

Funding Notes

This project is in competition with others for funding. Success will depend on the quality of applications received, relative to those for competing projects. If you are interested in applying, in the first instance contact the supervisor, with a CV and covering letter, detailing your reasons for applying for the project.

Entry requirements:
Bachelor degree classification of 2.1 or higher (or equivalent).
Language requirement (if applicable) IELTS 6.5 with no element scoring less than 6.

References

1 Drury et al. 2015 J. Evol. Biol. 27, 1439-1452. 2 Drury et al. 2015 Proc Roy Soc B. 20142256 3 Drury et al. 2019 Ecography doi: 10.1111/ecog.044694 Grether et al. 2019 Ecology Letters doi: 10.1111/ele.13395 5 Levis & Pfennig, TREE 31, 563-574. 6 Troscianko & Stevens 2015, MEE 6, 1320-1331. 7 Price & Kirkpatrick 2009 Proc. Biol. Sci. 276, 1429-1434. 8 Peter & Slatkin 2013 Evolution 67, 3274-3289. 9 Andrews et al. 2016 Nat. Rev. Genet 17, 81-92.

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