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Applications are now open for PhD studentships starting in October 2018. 

Please read the recruitment introduction for more information about eligibility, how to apply, and possibilities for further funding.

The deadline for applications is 8 January 2018.

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IMMLER_UBIO18EE - Adaptation to a changing environment at the gametic level

Project description

Selected other project supervisors
Professor Matthew Gage (UEA)
Dr Iain Macaulay (Earlham Institute)

This PhD project offers the opportunity to study a topical question related to climate change in combination with cutting edge modern sequencing technology.

Environmental temperature and its fluctuations are of topical interest due to global climate change, and understanding how organisms will be able to adapt to rapid variation in temperature is a key question that needs answers. Ectotherms comprise the majority of metazoan life, and are particularly sensitive to fluctuation in temperature as their metabolic rate is largely dependent on external thermal conditions. In addition, many ectotherms are external fertilisers where gametes (sperm and eggs) are directly exposed to environmental conditions, including water temperature, before they fertilise. Temperature has an established impact on sperm function, as it directly affects sperm metabolic rate and hence motility, performance and fertility. It is therefore an important step to understand the impact of an increase in water temperature on reproductive processes at the gametic level.

You will use the zebrafish Danio rerio to identify the role of selection on sperm performance within an ejaculate for adaptation to changing temperature. You will combine experimental work on sperm function and fertilisation dynamics, with cutting-edge genomic and transcriptomic technologies, to understand the efficiency of selection at the gametic level in adapting to temperature and how variation among sperm within an ejaculate contributes to adaptive processes.

You will acquire training and experience in Next Generation Sequencing technology and Bioinformatics at the highest level, all great prerequisites for future employment. You will be using the newly established zebrafish facilities at UEA and the high-end single-cell facility at Earlham Institute and combine experimental work with fish with next-generation sequencing, a very powerful approach to address scientific questions. You will be part of a research group and a larger highly collegial research community and have the opportunity to participate in national and international meetings and conferences to present yourself and your results. This is an ambitious project and will suit a highly motivated and enthusiastic student with a great interest to learn new skills.

This project has been shortlisted for funding by the EnvEast NERC Doctoral Training Partnership, comprising the Universities of East Anglia, Essex and Kent, with over twenty other research partners. Undertaking a PhD with the EnvEast DTP will involve attendance at mandatory training events throughout the course of the PhD.

Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed by EnvEast on 12/13 February 2018.

Selected candidates who meet RCUK’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship - in 2017/18, the stipend is £14,553. Ordinarily, EnvEast studentships are for 3.5 years, although longer awards may be made to applicants from quantitative disciplines who have limited experience in the environmental sciences, to allow them to take appropriate advanced-level courses in the subject area.

In most cases, UK and EU nationals who have been resident in the UK for 3 years are eligible for a stipend. For non-UK EU-resident applicants NERC funding can be used to cover tuition fees, RTSG and training costs, but not any part of the stipend. Individual institutes may, however, elect to provide a stipend from their own resources.

This PhD studentship is expected to begin in September/October 2018. Both full-time and part-time study are possible (those planning to study part-time may wish to discuss this with the supervisor before applying).


  1. Alavioon, A, Hotzy, C, Nakhro, K, Rudolf, S, Scofield, D, Zajitschek, S, Maklakov, M, Immler, S. Haploid selection within a single ejaculate increases offspring fitness. PNAS 114: 8053-8058.
  2. Zajitschek, S, Herbert-Read, J, Abbasi, N, Zajitschek, F, Immler, S. Paternal personality and social status influence offspring activity. BMC Evol Biol 17: 157.
  3. Otto, SP, Scott, M & Immler, S.2015. Evolution of haploid selection in predominantly diploid organisms. PNAS 112: 15952-15957
  4. Zajitschek, S, Hotzy, C, Zajitschek, F & Immler, S. 2014. Short-term variation in sperm competition causes sperm mediated epigenetic effects on early offspring performance in the zebrafish. Proc R Soc Lond Ser B 281: 20140422.
  5. Immler, S, Hotzy, C, Alavioon, G, Petersson, E & Arnqvist, G. 2014. Sperm variation within a single ejaculate affects offspring development in Atlantic salmon. Biol Lett 10: 20131040.