Species introduced from their native to exotic ranges experience different environmental conditions, which can promote invasion in the exotic range. In particular, some species may escape from natural enemies not present in their exotic range. Escape from natural enemies may relax ecological and genetic constraints, thereby allowing the invader to express novel phenotypes in the exotic range that are normally selected against in the native range. However, changes in traits of invaders can also occur through local effects (such as climate, soil chemistry, etc.) and temporal effects (climate change over time).
Purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) is an ideal study species that can be used to test for evolution after introduction as a result of enemy release, by comparing native range (Europe) and exotic range (Canada) populations and genotypes. This exciting PhD project will combine herbarium records of this species in Europe and Canada, genomics and metagenomics in order to reveal the introduction history of purple loosestrife in Canada, and to test whether loosestrife flowering has changed over time and why. In particular, metagenomic methods will be used to compare the pathogen and herbivore communities of this species in the exotic and native ranges, to assess their role in driving post-introduction evolution. The successful PhD candidate will gain skills and experience in molecular methods and bioinformatics. The work will include periods spent at Queen’s University in Canada.
We welcome applicants with strong writing and statistical skills, and experience of lab-based/molecular work (DNA extraction, PCR) is desirable. The successful candidate will have the equivalent of a 2:1 or 1st class Bachelors degree in biology, ecology, evolutionary biology, environmental biology or equivalent. A Masters degree and proven experience of writing for peer-reviewed publication are also desirable. Please send enquiries to Dr Wayne Dawson ([email protected]) including a CV and cover letter explaining your suitability for the PhD project. The deadline for enquiries is 10/12/17, after which the best candidates will be put forward to apply for a competitive Durham Doctoral Studentship (see https://www.dur.ac.uk/science.faculty/postgraduatefunding/ for details)