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PhD Studentship - How do Changing Environmental Conditions Impact Insect Energy Budgets?

University of Hull

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Kingston upon Hull
Funding for: UK Students
Funding amount: £18,622
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 12th January 2024
Closes: 1st March 2024

Project:

We invite applications to join our BBSRC-funded, multi-disciplinary team, including behavioural biologists and physiologists. This fully-funded, full-time PhD studentship will aim to develop predictions of how environmental variables affect energy budgets and life histories of two key UK pollinators– bumblebees and mason bees.

Background

Does temperature affect bees’ pollen choices? If so, then pollination services bees provide today may not be the same in a heated climate - an unassessed and possibly serious threat. Bees are vital for ecosystem stability – providing pollination services worth hundreds of billions of pounds annually. The UK has ~245 species of wild bees, collectively performing more pollination than managed honeybees and bumblebees. All animals need a balance of dietary nutrients, such as protein, carbohydrate and fat. However, different conditions, such as temperature, may necessitate different balances. As the climate heats up, the ideal nutritional mix for bees may change.

Our team studies two wild pollinator species representing two distinct contrasting lifestyles of UK bees - social-nesting buff-tailed bumblebees (Bombus terrestris), and solitary-nesting red mason bees (Osmia bicornis). Both are commercially important pollinators, but they have important differences in life history that may result in different responses to nutrition and temperature.

The PhD Studentship

The successful candidate will either have a background in a quantitative or computational scientific discipline (e.g. Informatics, Mathematics, Physics, Engineering) with an interest in applying these skills to biology, or be a biologist with an interest in quantitative analysis. They will apply cutting-edge modelling techniques to create and parameterise computational models using a combination of existing experimental data gathered by the project team and previous literature. The models will be used to: (i) test hypotheses about bee development, health and reproduction to achieve changes in practice (e.g. sowing wildflower strips of different nutritional composition in the context of predicted temperature shifts); and (ii) augment existing published models of bee reproduction and pollination across conditions, landscapes and climates. The student will use (among others) Dynamic Energy Budget (DEB) models that permit modelling of multiple physiological parameters across bees’ life histories, implemented in a programming language such as Python, R or MATLAB.

The Project Team

The team consists of three main investigators. Dr James Gilbert, at the University of Hull, has pioneered rearing protocols for the solitary bee, Osmia bicornis, providing an unprecedented window onto their nutritional ecology. Prof. Jeremy Niven, at the University of Sussex, is an insect physiologist with extensive experience in computational modelling of physiological systems. Dr Beth Nicholls, also at the University of Sussex, is a behavioural biologist and ecologist primarily focussed on bumblebees.

Research environment

The student will be based at the University of Hull, among the Times Higher Education's top global 100 for research impact and one of the highest climbers in the REF 2022. The School of Natural Sciences has multiple research groups focussed on monitoring and management of environmental change at the molecular, metabolic, individual, landscape, social and commercial levels. The co-supervisors are based in the School of Life Sciences at the University of Sussex.

Enquires:

Dr. James Gilbert (james.gilbert@hull.ac.uk)

Supervisors:

Dr James Gilbert (University of Hull); Prof Jeremy Niven (University of Sussex), Dr Beth Nicholls (University of Sussex)

For Funding and Eligibility requirements see application link below

APPLY HERE

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