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ENV East Doctoral Training Partnership


Applications to the EnvEast Doctoral Training Partnership are now closed.

Below you can browse some of the PhD projects we have previously funded; if you would like to be informed when applications open, or if you have any questions about EnvEast and our application process, please email us.

Projects previously funded by EnvEast


Mate recognition in insect control (CHAPMAN-T_UBIO15EE)

Project description

Scientific background/rationale and significance

Incomplete mate recognition, leading to reproductive interference in matings between closely related species, is of core interest in evolution and ecology because of its role in maintaining species barriers. It may often also be asymmetric (i.e. reciprocal interspecific matings incur different fitness costs). This so-called ‘satyrization' is of interest in insect control because of its potential to result in competitive displacement of species.

In addition to insect control via satyrization, selection against costly hybrid matings is important for novel control technologies exploiting underdominance. Underdominance occurs when the fitness of a heterozygote is lower than for both homozygotes. It could be used to drive an underdominant transgenic construct into a population to replace the wildtype allele.

These methods may inadvertently select for the evolution of reproductive character displacement to prevent hybrid matings. It is therefore important to investigate the nature and mechanisms of these evolving barriers, to understand nascent speciation as well as to improve insect control.

Research methodology

The student will investigate the evolution of mating barriers and mate recognition in species that hybridise, and in those that are undergoing replacement by underdominant alleles. The student will set up and run experimental evolution experiments in Drosophila and conduct tests of seminal fluid function in Drosophila and Aedes mosquitoes.


The project will be based at UEA but includes a placement of at least 8 months with the CASE partner, Prof. Luke Alphey, at the Pirbright Institute (formerly the Institute of Animal Health). The student will receive a broad training in all aspects of science delivery and dissemination, as well as in transferrable skills. Specific advanced skills include training in genetics, evolution, mate choice, transgenics, advanced statistical modeling and vector control.

Person specification

The project combines tests of fundamentally important phenomena in evolution and genetics (mate choice, speciation) in an applied context relevant to the control of important insect vectors. It would therefore suit a student with interest in evolution and genetics, but also one who is interested in extending their knowledge into the applied arena - to develop new technologies towards environmentally benign methods for insect control.

Shortlisted applicants will be invited to an interview day on either Thursday 12th or Friday 13th February 2015.


This project has been shortlisted for funding from the EnvEast NERC Doctoral Training Partnership. Successful candidates who meet RCUK's eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship. In most cases, UK and EU nationals who have been resident in the UK for 3 years are eligible for a full award. The stipend for 2014/15 was £13,863 p.a.


We recommend you read our 'How to Apply' page before starting your application.

  • Start date October 2015
  • Programme PhD
  • Mode of Study Full-time
  • Studentship Length 3.5 years
Entry requirements
  • Minimum Entry Standard 2:1 Bachelor degree with Honours or overseas equivalent