The projects listed below have been previously funded by EnvEast. They are now complete, and are not open to applications.
Paid Summer internships at EnvEast partners for Home/EU undergraduates from any university studying Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Engineering, Computing, and other quantitative disciplines - See more at: https://lred.uea.ac.uk/web/env_east/research-experience-placements/about1#sthash.PkPr4Xjp.dpuf
Invasive species can have major influences on ecosystems, and their impacts are growing as many more animals and plants are moved around the world. We know a lot about the consequences of biological invasion for biodiversity, but we know little about what makes a successful invader. This project will assess the importance of animal mating patterns for invasion. Mating patterns vary hugely in nature, generating big differences in strengths of sexual selection which, in turn, could influence a population’s ability to invade. Sexual selection (SS) acts within the struggle to reproduce, and we now know that SS has far wider impacts than the evolution of bright feathers or big antlers. When competition and choice occur in reproduction, SS theoretically improves the genetic health and fitness of a population, because only the ‘best’ individuals reproduce. If that’s true, SS should create better invaders. On the other hand, if SS biases investment into reproduction at the expense of naturally-selected traits (like growth, feeding, survival etc), we can hypothesise that these conflicts in SS create less successful invaders. This project will experimentally test between these ideas using evolution and experimentation in the lab.
What will you do?
You will join a friendly and welcoming research group conducting world-class science into the evolution of reproduction. Although you will be part of a supportive team, you will maintain and run your experiments, and gain experience in life sciences research. We use a small flour beetle Tribolium castaneum to study evolution in the lab, which has a short generation time, and is an ideal model for breeding experiments. For this project, we will use our unique selection lines that have ‘evolved’ in the lab for 10+ years under sole variation in the strength of SS. The experiment will trial these lines through a biological invasion assay to test whether SS creates superior invaders.
T. castaneum has a sister species, T. confusum, which will be the ‘resident’ species, into which we will ‘colonise’ T. castaneum invaders from different SS backgrounds. By running multiple replicate populations, and then subsampling and counting offspring from the two competing species through time as they reproduce following initial colonisation, you will track and compare invasion rates by the different castaneum SS backgrounds. We will train you in all aspects of the project, and you will spend time managing multiple experimental lines, counting and processing biological samples, logging and, finally, analyzing, interpreting, and reporting on the data.
What will you learn?
You will be based in UEA’s School of Biological Sciences, which is also a friendly and interactive environment. The placement will allow you to conduct a piece of original research into a topical and relevant question in evolution and ecology. You will help to design, conduct and analyse the invasion experiments, and interpret and present the findings. You will gain skills in experimental design, insect culture, general lab methods, microscopy, imaging, statistical analysis, and critical and creative thinking for scientific research. In addition to the Tribolium work, we also work on issues arising from Atlantic salmon farming; there will be an opportunity to spend some time in our molecular lab under guidance from an experienced researcher, conducting DNA-based research into farm salmon reproduction. We regularly host interns in our group, and all have benefited from the experience, and you will attend lab group meetings to discuss ongoing research at UEA and in other labs. You will interact with PhD students and researchers tackling different life sciences questions across the Centre for Ecology, Evolution and Conservation at UEA, including other work in our group on adaptations to climate change and inbreeding. The placement will be a great opportunity to experience life sciences research first-hand, and to further your understanding of evolution and ecology. Your contributions will make you a co-author on the publication we hope to produce from this work.
Preferred background of the student
We encourage applications from keen students who are keen to experience some experimental research, while learning more about evolution and biodiversity. We prefer students who will be organized and thorough in the lab (because these experiments require careful attention to detail). Enquiries are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Duration: 10 weeks (start date TBC and by arrangement with the supervisors)
Please check your eligibility before applying. You can apply for up to TWO projects from those advertised on this website by sending a C.V., a statement of up to 200 words stating which project you wish to apply for and why, and the name of a member of staff who can vouch for your academic abilities (e.g. your academic adviser/tutor).