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*EASTBIO* Local Adaptation in the Spawning Phenology of the Common Frog

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  • Full or part time
    Dr J Hadfield
    Dr A Phillimore
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

As the climate warms many organisms, if they are to persist, will have to respond by breeding earlier in the year. It is not clear how, or if, most species can achieve this. Since most studies only last for a handful of years, it is hard to predict how the study organisms will respond to the full spectrum of annual temperatures they are likely to encounter. An alternative is to study a species over a relatively short time scale but at many locations that are subject to different temperatures.

The project will explore the capacity of the Common frog (Rana temporaria) to spawn at the right time across different parts of the UK. Populations can track the optimum timing by responding directly to temperature (phenotypic plasticity) or by natural selection increasing the frequency of alleles that confer a local advantage (local adaptation). Both processes give rise to a better fit between the strategy and temperature but they have limits. Imperfect assessment of temperature means that phenotypic plasticity is often not perfect, and gene flow between populations acts against local adaptation.

Using a combination of citizen science data, mathematical and computational models and genetic data the project seeks to answer a range of questions about spatial evolution. Insights from this work will provide information about the capacity of the frog to cope with the impact of climate change on the optimum spawning date. We also envisage that the tools developed during the project will be widely used to provide important information about many other species beyond the Common frog.

Key Research Questions:

1) To what degree are geographic clines in the optimum tracked by local adaptation or phenotypic plasticity?

2) How far does gene flow push populations away from local optima, and what are the evolutionary consequences of this?

3) Do populations in different parts of the range show different strengths of phenotypic plasticity?

Field work: Most data will come from a large database of spawning dates across the UK collected over the last 15 years by citizen scientists. There will be scope for augmenting these data by visiting regions of the UK that have been under sampled.

Lab work: Citizen scientists will be engaged to send spawn samples from across the UK for genotyping. These data will be used to infer historic and contemporary gene flow in the frog population. The laboratory work will be reasonably straightforward but some experience with modern genetic markers would be helpful.

Computer work: The empirical data will be analysed and interpreted in a statistical framework developed by the supervisors. The student will be trained by the supervisors in this respect and can expect to achieve a high-level of proficiency in statistical, mathematical and computational methods.

Training: A comprehensive training programme will be provided comprising both specialist scientific training and generic transferable and professional skills. The first year will include an intensive one-semester course on theoretical population genetics, quantitative genetics and statistics that will provide a basis for the theoretical and statistical work.

Lab web site url: http://jarrod.bio.ed.ac.uk/jarrod.html

Lab web site url: http://phillimore.bio.ed.ac.uk

Funding Notes

Project and application details can be found at the website below. You must follow the instructions on the EASTBIO website for your application to be considered.

This opportunity is only open to UK nationals (or EU students who have been resident in the UK for 3+ years immediately prior to the programme start date) due to restrictions imposed by the funding body.



Phillimore AB, Hadfield JD, Jones OR & Smithers RJ (2010) Differences in spawning date between populations of common frog reveal local adaptation Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 107 (18) 8292-8297

Hadfield JD (2016) The spatial scale of local adaptation in a stochastic environment. Ecology Letters 19 (7) 780-788

Charmantier, A. et al (2008) Adaptive Phenotypic Plasticity in Response to Climate Change in a Wild Bird Population. Science 320 800-803

Related Subjects

How good is research at University of Edinburgh in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 109.70

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