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Circadian and Circatidal Rhythms in a Marine Intertidal Crustacean

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  • Full or part time
    Dr D Wilcockson
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

This project is part of a competition funded through the AberDoc scheme (https://www.aber.ac.uk/en/postgrad/fees-finance/uk-eu/research-competition/) at Aberystwyth University. The project is in collaboration with Leicester University (Professor Bambos Kyriacou) and Cambridge MRC-LMB (Dr Michael Hastings, FRS).

The project
Circadian (circa- approximately, -diem day) rhythms are a fundamental property of almost all organisms. These rhythms enable organisms to prepare appropriate behavioural, physiological and cellular responses to predictable environmental cycles that are a consequence of a rotating planet. Whilst we know a great deal about the molecular and cellular basis of circadian clocks, a major outstanding question in biological rhythms research remains the molecular control of behavioural and physiological rhythms in the intertidal zone. Unlike terrestrial organisms where the circadian ~24 h solar cycle dominates, intertidal animals are challenged by a complex ~12.4 h tidal, semi-lunar (spring and neap tides), lunar and solar environment. Accordingly, intertidal animals exhibit circatidal and circadian behavioural cycles, synchronised to cues such as light-dark, turbulence/vibration, salinity and temperature changes.

Using the marine crustacean model, Eurydice pulchra we have previously shown that these rhythmic phenotypes are controlled by separate tidal and daily clock mechanisms1-4. We now need to identify the molecular components of this independently evolved circatidal mechanism. For this we will use contemporary molecular technologies, together with detailed behavioural observations to investigate the cells, proteins and genes that might control rhythmic behaviour. The successful candidate will receive training in behavioural monitoring and analysis, molecular (qPCR, RNAScope-in situ hybridisation, RNA interference), immunochemical techniques (immunohistochemistry and Western Blotting), microdissection and confocal microscopy. Our primary aim is to describe the cells that underpin the tidal clock, the genes and proteins within these cells that drive the clock mechanism and how daily and tidal clocks interact to produce the extraordinary behavioural repertoires that these animals exhibit in their natural environment.

The candidate will receive day-to-day supervision at Aberystwyth but will be expected to attend regular meetings with the collaborative team and will have the opportunity to spend time in the Leicester and Cambridge labs where appropriate. As such, this project represents a tremendous training opportunity and the outcomes of the research have potential for impact through relevance to aquaculture, evolutionary biology and even our understanding of more evolved clock mechanisms. The candidate will also benefit from the outstanding research environment at IBERS, Aberystwyth, including a BBSRC, European and Welsh Government funded Innovation Campus, Core Genomics Facility and recently installed marine aquarium. The Wilcockson Labs are friendly, collaborative, exceptionally well equipped and have received funding from BBSRC and NERC.

This award is available to high-achieving students. Candidates should have (or expect to achieve) a first-class honours degree or a 2.1 and distinction at Masters level in the biological sciences (Biology, Zoology, Marine Biology, Cell or Molecular Biology, Biochemistry etc). A genuine interest rhythms biology/ crustacean biology is essential.

To apply for this PhD, in the first instance send your c.v., transcripts and a one- page (A4) statement detailing your motivation for applying, outlining your interest in the work conducted in the host laboratory and why you are well suited to the project, to the principle supervisor, Dr David Wilcockson ([Email Address Removed]) by 5pm 16th February 2018. Selected candidates will be invited to submit a full application via the AberDoc Scheme- deadline 1st March 2018. Informal enquiries are welcomed and can made, also by email to Dr Wilcockson.

Funding Notes

This project is part of a competition funded through the AberDoc scheme (https://www.aber.ac.uk/en/postgrad/fees-finance/uk-eu/research-competition/) at Aberystwyth University. This award is available to high-achieving students from the UK/EU.


1. David Wilcockson and Lin Zhang (2008), Circatidal clocks. Current Biology. Vol 18 (17), R753-R755.
2. Wilcockson, D.C., Zhang, L., Hastings, M.H., Kyriacou, C.P. and Webster, S.G (2011) Identification and expression patterns of pigment-dispersing hormone in the intertidal isopod, Eurydice pulchra. J. Comp. Neurology, 519(3):562-75.
3. Wilcockson, D. C., et al. Journal of comparative neurology 519, 562-575 (2011). 3. Lin Zhang, Michael H. Hastings, Edward W. Green, Eran Tauber, Martin Sladek, Simon G. Webster, Charalambos P. Kyriacou and David C. Wilcockson (2013). Dissociation of circadian and circatidal time-keeping in the marine crustacean Eurydice pulchra. Current Biology 23(19):1863-1873.
4. O'Neill JS, Lee KD, Zhang L, Feeney K, Webster SG, Blades MJ, Kyriacou CP, Hastings MH, and Wilcockson DC. (2015). Metabolic molecular markers of the tidal clock in the marine crustacean Eurydice pulchra. Current Biology 25: R326-327. 10.1016/j.cub.2015.02.052

How good is research at Aberystwyth University in Agriculture, Veterinary and Food Science?
(joint submission with Bangor University)

FTE Category A staff submitted: 70.21

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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