Dr Chris Knight - postgraduate opportunities
Behavioural evolution in yeast
Behavioural studies usually involve animals. However, the sorts of responses to environmental cues that make up behaviour in animals also occur in microbes. For asking about behavioural evolution, microbes have several advantages: manipulating their environment in controlled ways is much more straightforward than for animals; it is possible to test very large numbers of environmental cues and responses; available genomic knowledge offers more direct routes into understanding mechanism. This project will utilise all these advantages to ask how behaviour has evolved among genome-sequenced wild yeasts (Replansky et al. 2008).
The student will look broadly at a wide set of environments (Bochner et al. 2001) to construct behavioural networks of environmental cues and responses. This data will be used to construct networks of some of the most interesting, anticipatory microbial behaviour (Mitchell et al. 2009). A comparative approach will be used to ask, both experimentally and computationally, how those networks have evolved (Knight and Pinney 2009). Doing so will provide novel insight into how cellular networks are interconnected and into the ecology of these environmentally and economically important organisms. At the same time this project offers new routes to ask about both behavioural evolution and responses to environmental change more generally.
Applicants should have a background in biology or genetics with interests in evolution. The project will involve analytical and computational approaches as well as microbiology and molecular biology techniques. The successful applicant will interact with both laboratory-based and computational biologists and have the chance to contribute to the direction of research in a collaborative and inter-disciplinary laboratory.
- Bochner, B.R., Gadzinski, P., and Panomitros, E. (2001) Phenotype microarrays for high-throughput phenotypic testing and assay of gene function. Genome Res 11: 1246-1255.
- Knight, C.G., and Pinney, J.W. (2009) Making the right connections: biological networks in the light of evolution. BioEssays 31: 1080-1090.
- Mitchell A, Romano GH, Groisman B, Yona A, Dekel E, et al. (2009) Adaptive prediction of environmental changes by microorganisms. Nature 460: 220-224.
- Replansky, T., Koufopanou, V., Greig, D., and Bell, G. (2008) Saccharomyces sensu stricto as a model system for evolution and ecology. Trends Ecol Evol 23: 494-501.