Exciting opportunities to participate in research aimed at discovering unconventional routes to adaptation

We seek up to three highly motivated PhD students to join a research program focused on the causal dynamics of behavioural evolution. Fully-sponsored opportunities exist for domestic Australian and international candidates in the context of two broader projects:

Thermal preference across life stages in the Queensland fruit fly (Bactrocera tryoni)

In Australia, the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) has recently been engaged to control the horticultural pest Bactrocera tryoni (Queensland fruit fly or “Q-fly”). SIT offers a sustainable control measure provided that released (sterile) stock are viable and competitive under natural conditions. However, Q-fly populations adapt rapidly to captive environments, leading to phenotypes that are ill-equipped for the wild and inefficient as SIT agents in the wild. Our research is broadly aimed at understanding the genetic and evolutionary basis of thermal preference, and how this integrates with key life history traits in the context of Q-fly domestication.

We seek a PhD candidate to conduct research broadly commensurate with this goal. The project may focus on behaviour, genetics or physiology of thermal behaviour, and would ideally integrate several themes. Approaches are expected to include behavioural experiments, artificial selection and/or experimental evolution, with abundant opportunity to integrate with functional genomic research. Supervision will be provided by Dr. Darrell Kemp and Dr. Kate Lynch at Macquarie University.

This project is part of a $20.5 million ‘SITPlus’ collaboration that aims to develop a detailed understanding of Qfly biology as a foundation for effective, environmentally benign and sustainable management practises to combat this major pest. This consortium spans Macquarie University, the Commonwealth Scientific & Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries (DPI), the South Australia Research Development Institution (SARDI) and New Zealand Institute for Plant & Food Research (PFR). Collectively, these institutions offer vast expertise and research capacity and the candidate can expect excellent supervision, collaborative opportunities, facilities and research support.

2. The evolutionary dynamics of boldness behaviour in guppies (Poecilia reticulata)

This program arises from a joint ARC/NSF funded collaboration between Macquarie University and UC Riverside. Our broad purpose is to understand how interactions among environmental, genetic and epi-genetic factors may drive evolution in non-conventional ways. We will interrogate this using guppies (Poecilia reticulata), a small tropical freshwater fish with a rich heritage in evolutionary biology. A key feature of this program is the ability to connect laboratory insights with realized adaptive trajectories in wild experimental populations.

We seek two PhD candidates to pursue distinctive research in areas commensurate with program goals. We particularly encourage applicants with interests in behavioural and/or evolutionary genetics. An MPhil or equivalent qualification is essential for direct PhD entry, although alternate pathways exist. The supervisory committee will consist of Dr. Darrell Kemp and Dr. Kate Lynch (Macquarie) and Prof. David Reznick (UC Riverside). We collectively possess substantial expertise in behaviour, life history and evolutionary genetics, ensuring strong intellectual support. This program also offers the potential for internships at UC Riverside and/or travel to experimental streams in Trinidad.

The research environment

All candidates will be based at Macquarie University, a major research institution located in Sydney’s northern high-technology corridor. The Department of Biological Sciences employs around 40 Faculty and has core strengths in behaviour, ecology and evolution. This is an intellectually stimulating environment with a vibrant community comprising over 100 graduate students.

Tenure and salary rates

Full time candidature for all positions will ideally commence in late 2016 or early 2017. The salary range is $26,288 - $30,849 pa (tax-free and indexed annually) for 3 years, plus a stipend covering all tuition fees. Macquarie also provides generous support for research and conference travel, and there are abundant opportunities to supplement income via undergraduate teaching scholarships.

Requests for information and/or expressions of interest should be emailed directly to Dr. Kemp (darrell.kemp[at]mq.edu.au) prior to 15th October 2016. Please include a CV, brief statements of past experience and future research interests, including copies of any research outputs.