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In temporally heterogeneous environments females can adjust investments in offspring in order to enhance their fitness. This form of transgenerational phenotypic plasticity is referred to as ‘maternal effects’. If a female's current environment reliably predicts the future conditions of her progeny, then maternal effects can be adaptive. Conversely, if there is a mismatch between maternal and offspring environment, then maternal effects may be maladaptive. Theory predicts that the way that females can transmit information to their offspring will differ between species, depending on their mode of reproduction. In this project we will study how the mechanisms that underlie maternal effects change in livebearing animal lineages during the evolution of a placenta.
The placenta is an intimate maternal-fetal connection that plays a crucial role in the regulation of embryo development. The evolution of such an intimate connection implies that (stressful) conditions experienced by the mother during pregnancy can more easily be transmitted to the embryo via the placenta. We will study the different mechanisms at play by which adverse environments experienced by the mother (e.g. nutritive stress or the perception of predation risk) are transmitted to their developing offspring, by comparing live-bearing fishes with and without placentas. We will test (1) how the mechanisms that underlie these maternal effects change during the evolution of the placenta and (2) how exposure to similar adversities differently impacts offspring fitness and physical and mental development, depending on the level of placentation.
We will study this using the live-bearing fish family Poeciliidae (which includes well known pet fish, such as the guppy). The placenta evolved multiple times independently in the Poeciliidae. This family contains closely-related species, as well as populations within species, that vary markedly in the presence and complexity of placentas. This variation in placental complexity at such low taxonomic levels offers a unique opportunity to study how maternal effects evolve in association with the evolution of the placenta. The applicant may use a combination of fieldwork, microcosm experiments, life history evolution, physical and physiological performance tests, cognitive trials, neuro- & placental anatomy and comparative genomics & transcriptomics.
The PhD student will work at the Experimental Zoology group of Wageningen University. This PhD project is part of a larger research program at Wageningen University led by Dr. Pollux that focuses on the causes, mechanisms and consequences of placenta evolution. The project will take place in close collaboration with Dr. Aniko Korosi (Associate Professor Neuroscience, Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences, Center for Neuroscience, University of Amsterdam).
For this interdisciplinary project, we look for an enthusiastic, creative, result-driven person with an MSc degree in biology or related field. Applicants should have a genuine interest in evolutionary biology - in particular the relationship between development and evolution. An affinity with neuroscience and/or bioinformatics is highly valued. Research experience in the relevant domains (MSc thesis) is required and excellent communication skills and proficiency in English (both oral and written) are a prerequisite.
Full time position for 4 years, continuation of the contract will be based on a performance evaluation after 18 months. Gross salary per month € 2325,- in the first year rising up to € 2972,- per month in the fourth year.
In addition, we offer:
- 8% holiday allowance;
- a structural year-end bonus of 8.3%;
- excellent training opportunities and secondary employment conditions;
- excellent pension plan through ABP;
- 232 vacation hours, the option to purchase extra and good supplementary leave schemes;
- a flexible working time: the possibility to work a maximum of 2 hours per week extra and thereby to build up extra leave;
- a choice model to put together part of your employment conditions yourself, such as a bicycle plan;
- a lively workplace where you can easily make contacts and where many activities take place on the Wageningen Campus. A place where education, research and business are represented;
- use the sports facilities at reduced prices on campus
You can only apply via the website of Wageningen University & Research; https://www.wur.nl/en/Jobs/Vacancies.htm
Applications should include a letter of motivation, CV and names of three references. Because of the holiday period the application deadline is extended to September 15 2019.
For further information please contact Dr. Bart Pollux (Assistant Professor Evolutionary Biology), phone: +31(0)317 486083 (active from 19 August 2019 onwards), email: email@example.com, website: https://www.wur.nl/en/Persons/Bart-dr.-BJA-Bart-Pollux.htm
Wageningen University is the academic core of Wageningen University and Research (WUR), which is the largest biology-oriented research institution in The Netherlands. The mission of WUR is to explore the potential of nature to improve the quality of life. WUR trains professionals in applied and fundamental research, aiming for breakthroughs in science and technology.