Opportunities

Undergraduate volunteers

We are always looking for undergraduate volunteers to help out in the lab.

Skills you can learn:

  • Insect collection and fieldwork
  • Species identification
  • Insect rearing
  • Experimental design
  • Microinjection
  • DNA and RNA extraction
  • PCR

Honours/ MSc Projects

Project 1.  Exploring the potential for endosymbionts to impact vulnerability to climate change

Wolbachia are endosymbionts that infect many species of arthropods and nematodes. They have been shown to alter the reproductive biology of their insect hosts (e.g. cytoplastic incompatibility) and have recently been used as a biological control agent to try to control Dengue fever and other mosquito borne diseases. A handful of empirical studies suggest that Wolbachia may influence the thermal tolerance of their hosts, but the extent to which the presence of Wolbachia may alter climate change vulnerability is unknown.

Skills you may learn:

  • Insect collection and fieldwork
  • Species identification
  • Insect rearing
  • Experimental design
  • Microinjection
  • DNA and RNA extraction
  • PCR

Project 2.  Exploring the potential for transgenerational effects to alter climate change risk

Transgenerational or carry-over effects – such as maternal or epigenetic effects – can increase or decrease fitness and heat tolerance due to beneficial phenotypic plasticity or the accumulation of cellular damage across generations respectively. Nonetheless, studies that examine climate change risk across temperature typically measure either fitness or heat tolerance on organisms exposed to different temperatures for one generation only. The extent to which transgenerational or carry over effects (maternal and/or epigenetic effects) might lead to over or underestimating climate change risk remains to be explicitly examined.

Skills you may learn:

  • Insect collection and fieldwork
  • Species identification
  • Insect rearing
  • Experimental design

Project 3.  Can plasticity increase upper male fertility thermal limits?

Tropical species are predicted to be most at risk as they live close to their current upper thermal limits. However, assessments have predominately focused on upper critical thermal limits, the temperature at which adults stop moving or die. I have recently shown that male developmental upper fertility thermal limits – which are much lower than critical thermal limits – are better at predicting species’ extinction temperatures and current distributions. Whether similar patters are evident in acute upper male fertility thermal limits and the extent to which plasticity can increase these limits has not been tested.

Skills you may learn:

  • Insect collection and fieldwork
  • Species identification
  • Insect rearing
  • Experimental design

PhD Projects

I will be joining the University of Melbourne next year and I am currently looking for graduate students to work on projects examining the effect of endosymbionts on climate change vulnerability. Please contact me if you are interested.

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