PhD Studentship in Behavioural and Evolutionary Ecology at University of Antwerp, Belgium

Organisms interact with their environment and the environment has, as a consequence, also significant influences on them. This is particularly the case during ontogenetic development, and the same genotype can develop into a variety of phenotypes depending on the environmental circumstances in which it finds itself. Thus phenotypic development is a result of genotype, environment as well as their interplay – gene-environment interactions. Such phenotypic plasticity may enable adaptive responses to the early life environment, but may form a constraint in the long-term if the phenotypic changes appear to be irreversible. Yet, our understanding of the adaptive significance of phenotypic plasticity and phenotypic change is limited. The project aims to study the evolutionary ecology of phenotypic plasticity by integrating behaviour, physiology and endocrinology using avian species, both in the field (blue tit) and in the lab (canary); possible lines of research are: -Sources of variation in phenotypic plasticity and their functional consequences -Developmental responses to (anthropogenic) change and stress: grow now – pay later -Life-long consequences of (developmental) stress – the endocrine and epigenetic mechanisms that link early life experiences with behaviour and health in later life -Trans-generational effects: transmission and inheritance of phenotypic changes across three generations (spanning up to the grandchildren) -Maternal engineering and individual optimization by the offspring: appropriate developmental trajectories in response to environmental cues and changes

-You hold a MSc degree in Biology or a related field -You have experience with animal research -You are interested in behavioural ecology and evolutionary ecology

Scholarship Deadline: 31.08.11.

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