Causes and consequences of matching habitat choice in Fruit flies (Drosophila)

In this new Excellence-project funded by the Spanish ministry for science, we aim to evaluate the varied impacts that Matching Habitat Choice may have on individuals, populations and even species. We will generate selection lines of Drosophila melanogaster fruit flies that are very good versus not at all in selecting the habitat in which their local performance is maximised. Comparing among these lines allows us to test how this behaviour affects reproductive output, capacity to invade novel habitats, interactions with other species, and even the potential for speciation.

 I currently have a position for a PhD student working in this project available (see for detailed information on how to apply this website. Appplications need to be submitted online between 3-18 october 2017 . Contact me if you need help or have questions). See Memoria_cientifico_tecnica_Edelaar & Prado for a detailed description of the project.

Position description

A PhD candidate is sought for a project on the ecological and evolutionary causes and consequences of Matching Habitat Choice to be carried out at the University Pablo de Olavide, a young high-ranking and research-intensive university in Seville, Spain. The PhD student will develop and execute protocols and experiments, record and analyse responses, and write up and publish results. The position is for 4 years and funded by the Spanish Ministry of Economy. Interactions with or stays at collaborating groups in the USA, France or Belgium are possible.

Project description

Recent theoretical developments and own empirical data show that populations can adapt when individuals choose habitats in which they perform best – challenging the current paradigm that adaptation of populations is exclusively driven by natural selection. This plausible hypothesis of ´Matching Habitat Choice´ has yet to be fully confirmed. A better understanding of the process of adaptation can have major impacts on our environment, society and economy. The objective of the project is therefore to increase our understanding of adaptation by documenting and understanding the causes and consequences of Matching Habitat Choice. By exposing individual Fruit flies (genus Drosophila) to contrasting habitats and allowing them to choose, for the first time we will study the effects of Matching Habitat Choice on a wide range of key topics like niche shift, speciation, community effects, and stress physiology. Experimental manipulation of individual phenotypes is the fundamental approach, as it distinguishes Matching Habitat Choice from better known but different forms of habitat choice, such as habitat preference genes and imprinting. A number of modern techniques and resources from developmental biology and neurobiology are creatively employed to manipulate fly phenotypes in this eco-evolutionary arena. By selecting fly populations for high/low degrees of Matching Habitat Choice, we will be able to test for the specific effect of Matching Habitat Choice. We will also aim to study the evolution and consequences of Matching Habitat Choice at the theoretical level. Expected impacts include publication of high-quality ´eye-opening´ papers, clarification and development of existing/new theory and evolutionary concepts, training of young scientists, and introduction of novel techniques into the field. This exciting project is designed to improve the way people think about evolution and adaptation, and to act as a catalyst for future studies within related and even unrelated (incl. applied) fields.

Eligibility and selection criteria

The candidate is required to be highly motivated and to have an interest and prior training or experience in evolutionary biology and experimental design. She/he should have good technical, analytical and computer skills, as well as competence in written and spoken English. Knowledge of Spanish is not a must, but very useful for the application process and further administrative interactions. Initiative, independence, and team-work performance are attributes of the ideal candidate. Background knowledge or previous experience with handling animals, including Fruit flies, is desirable but not a necessity. Applicants will also need to meet the eligibility criteria described in the call of the position (see next section).

Additional information

The call has been published here: Ayudas para contratos predoctorales para la formación de doctores 2017. Further instructions and forms for the application process are available there. In addition, applicants are asked to send to a single PDF file that includes their CV (including the contact details of 2 persons willing to give a reference of the candidate), and a 1-page (maximum) letter (in Spanish or English) explaining their interests and motivation for the PhD position. But please check your eligibility first on the call website. Formal application needs to be done between 3 and 18 October 2017, but feel free to contact me beforehand for questions etc.