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PhD Studentship - Assessing the Breadth and Depth of Heatwave Impacts on Reproduction Across Insect Systems (GAGE_UBIO19ARIES)

University of East Anglia - School of Environmental Sciences

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Norwich
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students
Funding amount: Not Specified
Hours: Full Time, Part Time
Placed On: 31st October 2018
Closes: 8th January 2019

Location University of East Anglia, Norwich

Start date: October 2019

No. of positions available: 1

Supervisor Prof Matt Gage

Project description

BACKGROUND: Earth’s climate is changing, and heatwaves are becoming more frequent and extreme. Biodiversity is responding to these changes by shifting ranges, declining and going extinct, but the proximate drivers remain poorly understood. We have established in a model insect (Tribolium beetles) that reproduction is especially sensitive to heatwave conditions (temperatures 5-7oC above optimal for 5 days). Heatwaves damage male fertility and sperm function, and a second heatwave almost completely sterilises males. In addition, we have discovered transgenerational declines in offspring fitness and lifespan if their fathers or fertilising sperm experienced heatwaves. These findings create an exciting foundation for a topical PhD to assess how such reproductive thermosensitivity applies across a representative range of species, and whether this phenomenon causes population declines under climate change. The project therefore aims to: 1) quantify heatwave effects on reproduction across temperate and tropical insects representing the major Orders including butterflies, moths, crickets and flies; 2) measure mechanistic causes and consequences of deeper transgenerational consequences of thermal stress; and 3) assess heatwave impacts on long-term population viability.

APPROACH & TRAINING: A range of study species amenable to experimental breeding and research are available for study, and the different project areas can be prioritized according to your own interests and abilities. You will be trained to sample, culture and manage different insects, and then conduct and analyse rigorously-controlled experimental ecology trials to reveal how heatwaves influence reproductive function, fitness, gene flow and population viability. You will master techniques in phenotyping, microdissection and advanced in vivo and in vitro bioimaging. The PhD provides an opportunity to answer relevant scientific questions about impacts of climate change on biodiversity. 

RESEARCH ENVIRONMENT: You will join a welcoming and active research group generating world-class, NERC-supported science (, an energetic ARIES cohort, and collaborate with colleagues in UEA, Zurich, Krakow and beyond. This environment will enable you to develop into an independent-thinking, international-impact scientist in a priority area. You should have a good degree in the life sciences, relevant research experience, and be keen to advance scientific understanding of our natural environment. Contact lead supervisor Matthew Gage for further details:

Person Specification: Minimum entry requirement is 2:1.

Funding notes

This project has been shortlisted for funding by the ARIES NERC Doctoral Training Partnership. Undertaking a PhD with ARIES will involve attendance at training events.

ARIES is committed to equality & diversity, and inclusion of students of any and all backgrounds. All ARIES Universities have Athena Swan Bronze status as a minimum.

Applicants from quantitative disciplines with limited environmental science experience may be considered for an additional 3-month stipend to take appropriate advanced-level courses. Usually only UK and EU nationals who have been resident in the UK for 3 years are eligible for a stipend. Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed on 26th/27th February 2019.

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