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PhD Studentship - Testing Classical and Emerging Evolutionary Theories of Ageing in Ecologically Relevant Environments

University of East Anglia - Biology

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Norwich
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students, International Students
Funding amount: £15,609 annual stipend plus tuition fees (up to 48 months)
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 12th November 2021
Closes: 10th December 2021
Reference: IMMLERS_U21ERC3

 Why do organisms age? Ageing is an integral part of the life course of most species on Earth yet the evolution of ageing remains to be one of the "big" unsolved problems in biology. 

This project integrates novel conceptual insights into the evolutionary biology and ecology of ageing that emerged in recent years. The dominant paradigm that ageing evolves due to the competing resource demands of life-history traits has been increasingly challenged as studies in different organisms suggest that the key life-history trade-off between reproduction and survival can be uncoupled. The emerging idea maintains that ageing may be caused by suboptimal gene expression in adulthood because natural selection on late-life reproduction and mortality is too weak. At present, it is unclear which of these two theories offer a better explanation for organismal ageing. The progress in this field is impeded by the lack of studies that directly test these theories in ecologically relevant environments.

You will combine the genetic “tools” available in Caenorhabditis elegans nematodes – the classical model organism in evolutionary genetics – with fitness assays in complex ecologically relevant environments. You will employ a new experimental paradigm that will allow us to test how lifespan extension via gene knockdowns in evolutionary conserved signalling pathways that shape organismal life histories affects development, growth, behaviour, reproduction and, ultimately, fitness in rapidly changing and unpredictable environments. 

This project integrates emerging evolutionary theory of ageing with classical evolutionary ecology approach to test how interference with evolutionary conserved molecular signalling pathways that regulate life-history traits shape ageing and fitness in realistically complex and variable environments. 

You will gain a wide range of skills in experimental design, critical thinking, advanced statistical analyses, scientific writing, presentational skills, evolutionary ecology and evolutionary genetics. You will receive multi-disciplinary training in evolutionary ecology/biology and in bio-gerontology, thereby increasing opportunities for employability after the PhD. 

We are looking for an enthusiastic and highly motivated student with deep interest in one of the following fields of research: evolution, ecology, genetics, biology of ageing.

References:

  • Lind MI, Zwoinska MK, Andersson J, Carlsson H, Krieg T, Larva T, Maklakov AA (2020) Environmental variation mediates the evolution of anticipatory parental effects. Evolution Letters, online, https://doi.org/10.1002/evl3.177
  • Maklakov AA, Chapman T (2019) Evolution of ageing as a tangle of trade-offs: energy versus function. Proc R Soc B, https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2019.1604
  • Maklakov AA, Immler S (2016) The expensive germline and the evolution of ageing. Current Biology, 26:R577-R586.

Primary Supervisor :  Prof Simone Immler

Start date: 01/02/2022

This PhD studentship is funded by the European Research Council.  Funding is available to UK and international applicants and consists tuition fees, an annual stipend of £15,609 (for a maximum of 48 months).  Successful candidates who are eligible for home tuition fees may be considered for an earlier start date by request. 

For more information on this project, please visit http://www.uea.ac.uk

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