PhD positions available (keep scrolling)

Examining inter-specific competition and vulnerability to climate change in Drosophila species.

Predicting species responses to climate change represents one of the greatest challenges for biologists. Current predictions focus on sensitivity to thermal stress, but they ignore species interactions. Species interactions— especially competition — shape all aspects of a species’ ecology, including the capacity of species to respond to climate change.  Failure to consider the role of competitive interactions in shaping species responses limits our ability to predict species vulnerability to climate change. 

Species can respond to climate change by adapting to future climates via evolutionary change, shifting distributions to track optimal climates or going extinct. These responses will alter community dynamics and composition, leading to changes in the direction, frequency, and intensity of competition. Thus, the combined effects of rising temperatures, altered community composition, and altered competitive interactions will directly impact biodiversity and extinction risk across all levels of biological organisation. Indeed, climate change-induced shifts in species interactions are already driving species extinctions.

 

Current assessments of risk primarily focus on whether species harbour sufficient genetic variation in key traits to enable adaptive responses to occur. Yet, species do not evolve in isolation, but rather in communities whose composition and competitive interactions will define their risk and adaptive capacity in changing climates. The need to incorporate competition into predictions of climate change risk is widely acknowledged. But we lack the empirical foundations to do so.

Using Drosophila this project will examine the role of inter-specific competition in shaping species thermal performance and capacity to adapt to climate change and in doing so further our understanding of the role of biotic interactions in species vulnerability to climate change.

We are seeking a student who is highly motivated and passionate about evolutionary biology. Preferred candidates will have experience in evolution, ecology and thermal physiology, although experience in these areas is not necessary. The project will involve a combination of fieldwork and lab-based experiments. There will be opportunities for the successful applicant to pursue their own scientific ideas within the aims of the project. The successful candidates will be supervised by Dr Vanessa Kellermann and Prof Carla Sgrò and will be based at Monash University’s School of Biological Sciences. 

The successful applicant will be awarded a scholarship that covers salary (current rate is $27,862 AUD tax-free per year), and a waiver of student fees, international students are welcome to apply, however, preference will go to domestic applicants due to COVID19 and border restrictions.

Interested applicants should submit a CV, a copy of their academic transcript and a cover letter outlining their research interests to  Vanessa.kellermann@monash.edu. 

Click here for further details on Ph.D. and Monash Universities application procedures. 

Examining thermal adaptation in native Australian bees.

Bees are keystone species in many ecosystems due to their role as pollinators. Any changes in the abundance and distribution of bees will have significant knock-on effects on biodiversity and ecosystem services.  Despite their outsized ecological role, we know very little about climatic adaptation in bees, or even which climatic factors drive bee distributions. 

In this project, we will use the rich and diverse Australian bee fauna to investigate the capacity of bees to adapt to climate change. Using field-based surveys of bees thermal tolerances, comparative phylogenetic approaches and field reciprocal transplant experiments the project aims to: determine the role of temperature and rainfall in shaping the distribution of native bee species, predict the capacity of native bees to adapt to climate change and determine the role of environment and genetic variation in shaping population variation. 


We are seeking a student who is highly motivated and passionate about evolutionary biology. Preferred candidates will have experience in evolution, ecology and thermal physiology, although experience in these areas is not necessary. There will be opportunities for the successful applicant to pursue their own scientific ideas within the aims of the project. The successful candidates will be supervised by Dr Vanessa Kellermann (Monash University) and Dr Ros Gloag (University of Sydney) and will be based at Monash University’s School of Biological Sciences. 

 

The successful applicant will be awarded a scholarship that covers salary (current rate is $27,862 AUD tax-free per year), and a waiver of student fees, international students are welcome to apply.  

Interested applicants should submit a CV, a copy of their academic transcript and a cover letter outlining their research interests to vanessa.kellermann@monash.edu and ros.gloag@sydney.edu.au. 

Click here for further details on Ph.D. and Monash Universities application procedures.