The School of Biology has now posted it’s first batch of potential PhD projects on the website (http://synergy.st-andrews.ac.uk/research/phd-study/phd-study-projects/) and also on findaphd.com.
I am offering the following project. Please get in touch if you would like further information or to chat about your possible application. If you were successful at interview, funding would be via the BBSRC or the School of Biology. All applications have to me made via the School of Biology’s post-graduate website (see above).
The hidden costs of neonicotinoid pesticides: disrupting adaptive sex allocation in beneficial insects
Neonicotinoids are the most widely used insecticides in the world. However, their use is controversial. For instance, neonicotinoids have been linked to declines in species that provide important ecosystem services, such as pollinating insects. We have recently shown that another class of beneficial insect, the parasitoid wasps, can be suffer important fitness costs when exposed to a common neonicotinoid, even at very low, sub-lethal but field-realistic doses. Specifically, neonicotinoids disrupt adaptive sex allocation behaviour (the production of sons and daughters) in the wasp Nasonia vitripennis. The project will extend this finding, using our extensive knowledge of the sex allocation behaviour of Nasonia to explore how neonicotinoids disrupt sex ratio decision-making. Female Nasonia allocate sex in line with the predictions of Local Mate Competition (LMC) theory, and we know that females use a number of different cues when deciding what sex ratio to produce. We would also seek to extend our findings to other parasitoids (including solitary species, where sex ratios may be influenced by host quality) and to take our laboratory findings out into the field. This project provides a unique opportunity to combine behavioural ecology with applied entomology, and highlights the importance of understanding the evolution of life-history strategies when considering the social and economic costs of ecosystem interventions.
The project will provide a number of key training opportunities: (1) experimental design and behavioural techniques in the lab and field; (2) quantitative skills, from data management through to statistical analysis; (3) communication skills, to academic, industrial and non-technical audiences. There will also be the opportunity for the use of molecular technologies for candidates wishing to explore the effects of neonicotinoids at a more molecular level.