If you are interested in coming to work in our lab on the behavioural ecology of insect reproduction, upcoming opportunities will soon be posted. In all cases, the studentships will be awarded competitively following interview. In brief, the possible projects include:
(1) Indirect genetic effects and sex allocation in an aphid-attacking parasitoid wasp (co-funded by the University of St Andrews and the James Hutton Institute): this project will explore how inter-specific indirect genetic effects influence wasp reproductive behaviour and sex allocation. We will test how different genotypes of host plant (potato) influence aphid pests and their parasitoid (Aphidius ervi). We will also test the mechanism of sex determination in Aphidius ervi. This project is in collaboration with Ali Karley at the James Hutton Institute.
(2) Irrational animals (BBSRC-funded in colloboration with Sue Healy, University of St Andrews): this project will compare and contrast rational and irrational decision-making in hummingbirds (in the field in Canada) and Nasonia wasps (in the lab in St Andrews). “Irrational” decision-making refers to decisions that change depending on the context in which the decision is made (e.g. in the presence of irrelevant “decoy” options) and until recently was considered to be only a human trait. Recent work on hummingbirds and some other organisms has debunked that idea, but the idea of irrationality remains controversial and mis-understood outside humans. This project will seek to rectify that with a comparative approach spanning vertebrate and invertebrate model systems.
(3) What are genetic constraints (NERC-funded)? This project will use the well-studied adaptive sex allocation response in the wasp Nasonia vitripennis to explore what we mean by genetic constraints. We will explore the genetic architecture of key reproductive and behavioural traits in Nasonia and explore the extent to which we would expect natural selection to be able to shape them. This will be primarily in terms of recent advances in quantitative genetics, but will link with on-going work in the lab on the molecular genetic basis of sex ratio behaviour in Nasonia, and also provide the opportunity for new behavioural research on Nasonia reproductive behaviour and ecology.