NERC funded PhD position on the role of butterfly wing scales in thermoregulation

We are seeking an enthusiastic student with interests in ecology and evolution to work on a project investigating the evolution of wing scale nanostructures and thermal adaptation in tropical Andean butterflies. The wings of butterflies are covered in thousands of scales that have evolved to serve a range of functions including aerodynamic efficiency, colour signalling, camouflage, hydrophobicity and thermoregulation. Fundamental to these functions is the nanostructure of the scales.

Interest in organisms’ adaptation to their thermal environment has grown in recent years as we try to understand and predict how organisms will respond to climate change. Butterflies are one of the best-studied insect groups with respect to thermal adaptation. While the importance of the wings for thermoregulation has been known for some time, only recently has the importance of the wing scale nanostructures begun to be appreciated.

The project can be tailored to the interests of the student but would likely include working with museum collections of butterflies at the Natural History Museum (under the supervision of Dr Huetas), using cutting-edge techniques for measuring scale nanostructure (under the supervision of Dr Parnell) and computational analysis to investigate ecological correlates of wing scale nanostructure (under the supervision of Dr Thomas). It could also involve fieldwork in South America to obtain further butterfly specimens, ecological data and/or test hypotheses about thermal adaptation. This project builds on recent work in Dr Nadeau’s research group investigating the evolution, genetics and development of butterfly wing scale nanostructures and thermal adaptation in tropical Andean butterflies. The outcomes of this project could have applications in the design of nanomaterials to improve the thermal efficiency of man-made structures such as windows and solar panels.

Application process

Informal enquiries are welcome. Contact Nicola Nadeau.

Follow the instruction to apply online here

Shortlisted applicants will be invited for an interview to take place in the w/c 22nd February 2021.

Funding Notes

ACCE NERC DTP in Ecology and Evolution, programme starting October 2021.

UKRI provide the following funding for 3.5 years:
• Research Council Stipend – at least £15,285 (UKRI rate for 2020/21)
• Tuition Fees at the UK fee rate (2020/21 rate £4,406)
• Research support and training grant (RTSG)

Please note that international and EU fee rate candidates would need to cover the remaining amount of tuition fees by securing additional funding. International and EU tuition fees for 2021 entry £23,750.
Not all projects will be funded; the DTP will appoint a limited number of candidates via a competitive process.