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Interviews for this position are now over.

PhD project: Evolutionary potential of natural populations of marine phytoplankton

Deadline: Dec 16, 2013.  Interested individuals must follow steps 1, 2, AND 3 at the link on how to apply http://www.ed.ac.uk/schools-departments/biology/postgraduate/pgr/how-to-apply

Please see the guidelines on the IEB website

We are offering a PhD project on the broad theme of understanding the evolutionary potential of natural populations of a globally-distributed marine alga (Ostreococcus tauri). The specifics of the project will be decided after discussion between the student, supervisor, and other group members, but some possible questions could be:

-       We have evidence that marine algae can evolve in response to high CO2, but that this reduces their ability to withstand heat shock and other stresses.  What is the physiological basis of this? Does adaptation to high CO2 make populations less likely to adapt to warming?

-       Heritable variation in fitness within populations determines how rapidly populations can evolve, yet we have no estimates of within-population variation for marine algae. Using samples from populations collected in oceans around the world, we could determine the variation present. Do more variable populations come from more variable habitats?  Are they composed of more or less plastic individuals? What does this tell us about differences in evolutionary potential in different marine environments?

-       In the oceans, where many ecotypes of Ostreococcus coexist will the responses of populations to environmental change be predominantly evolutionary, ecological (e.g. species sorting or changes in abundance) or plastic? Does this differ with different rates of change or types of stressor?

The project will provide experience in laboratory experimental evolution studies, introduce the student to the field of ocean acidification research, and will address a fundamental open question in evolutionary biology through the lens of global change in the oceans.