Main supervisor: Dr. Jon Blount, Bioscience (University of Exeter)
Second supervisor: Prof. Nick Smirnoff, Bioscience (University of Exeter)
Penryn Campus, Cornwall
Project Description: High investment in reproduction can decrease survival, or reduce future reproductive success. There is considerable evidence of such trade-offs, but the underlying mechanisms remain controversial. One major theory is that reproduction entails increased levels of oxidative damage, which can have negative consequences for the functioning of cells and tissues, and thereby reduce survival and future reproductive capacity. However, evidence that reproduction increases oxidative damage is equivocal: in some contexts breeding individuals show higher levels of oxidative damage, but a growing number of studies show the opposite pattern.
We recently suggested that previous results can be explained if oxidative damage has negative impacts not only on mothers, but also on their developing offspring, i.e. if there are trans-generational costs of reproduction. In these circumstances mothers could gain from reducing their own levels of oxidative damage in order to shield their offspring from harm during sensitive developmental windows – the ‘oxidative shielding’ hypothesis (OSH) . Trans-generational impacts of oxidative damage seem likely to have an important influence on patterns of growth, reproduction, and survival, but there is currently little data to evaluate this hypothesis.
This studentship will carry out the first experimental tests of the OSH in a tractable mammal study system – laboratory-housed mice. We will examine how an individual’s condition influences their capacity to ‘shield’, and the consequences for reproductive success. We will also follow resultant offspring through their own subsequent breeding attempts, allowing us to quantify the costs of reproduction both within- and across generations. The student will receive a multi-disciplinary training in the design of complex experiments, longitudinal physiological sampling, behavioural observation, measurement of oxidative damage and antioxidant defences, and statistical analyses of data.
This project is one of a number that are in competition for funding from the South West Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (SWBio DTP). The SWBio DTP is a BBSRC-funded PhD training programme, delivered by a consortium comprising the Universities of Bristol, Bath, Cardiff and Exeter and Rothamsted Research. The projects are designed to provide outstanding interdisciplinary training in a range of topics in Agriculture & Food Security and World-Class Bioscience, underpinned by training in mathematics and complexity science.
You will only be eligible for the full funding if you meet the residency requirements outlined by the BBSRC. Students from EU countries who do not meet the residency requirements may still be eligible for a fees-only award. Applicants who are classed as International for tuition fees are not eligible for funding. You will need a 2:1 (or a 2:2 plus Masters) and a minimum grade B in A-level Maths.
Funding Details: At least £14,057 plus UK/EU tuition fees for eligible students