PhD Position: The evolution of plasticity during a biological invasion

CIE logo transparA PhD scholarship on invasion ecology is available in the Rollins lab in the Centre for Integrative Ecology at Deakin University.

Project: Organisms can deal with novel challenges by changing their phenotype in response to environmental cues (plasticity) and/or by longer-term changes in gene frequencies within a population (adaption). Plasticity itself can be adaptive; so how does it evolve? Invasive species offer a unique opportunity to answer that question, because a founding population (with typically modest genetic variation) must deal with novel challenges in its new environment.

Using the cane toad invasion in Australia as our model system, this project will examining the roles of plasticity and evolution in invasion using an experimental framework to study phenotypic traits important to invasion (dispersal ability, immune function and personality).

Further, we aim to determine whether epigenetic changes drive plasticity in this system. This project is part of a larger research program investigating the molecular mechanisms (genetic and epigenetic) that underlie invasion. The larger project is well resourced and multi-disciplinary, combining the efforts of molecular ecologists at Deakin University with invasion ecologists (Professor Rick Shine and his team) from the University of Sydney.

Selection criteria: This PhD project will be primarily based at our collaborator’s field station in the Northern Territory but will also include time at the Deakin University Geelong campus.

We seek an ecologist who will work closely with team members who are conducting genetic/epigenetic analyses. There will be flexibility to tailor the PhD project to your specific interests and the project can be framed as purely ecological or can incorporate a molecular component.

We seek a hard-working and enthusiastic student with some field experience, a demonstrated ability to work independently and well-developed organisational skills. Preference will be given to applicants with at least one first-authored publication.

Scholarship/application details: The successful candidate will be awarded a PhD stipend of AUD$26,288 per annum (taxfree) over three years.

Applicants should send an email to Dr. Lee Ann Rollins (lee.rollins@deakin.edu.au) including:

  1. CV;
  2. Academic record (subjects and marks);
  3. A one-page summary of your research interests and career goals;
  4. Details of 3 referees (including any previous research supervisors).

Closing date for applications is 1st May 2016