Project proposal details
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Insect pollinator morphological responses over the past century: plasticity or adaptation to environmental change
Project based at
Silwood Park (Imperial)
The 20th century was a period of widespread environmental change which appears to have dramatically affected insect populations. Museum samples provide us with a historical record allowing us to directly study how insects have changed over this time period. We have generated a unique digital dataset of British bumblebees and butterflies from Natural History Museums across UK. This project will help us collect and analyse data on morphological traits to understand how bumblebee populations have responded to dramatic environmental change and help us predict how they may react in the future. This desk-based project will involve morphometric analyses, but the final research question will be tailored to the student's interests. For example, there is the potential conduct a spatio-temporal analysis of body shape by combining morphological data with detailed land use and climate data collected through the 20th Century. Alternatively, the dataset can be used to carry out detailed investigations into bumblebee life history by integrating morphological differences between species and castes with environmental data. Ultimately understanding the patterns by which morphology has changes can provide insights as to how plastic body trait responses can be or if rapid adaptation (evolution by natural selection) is occurring.
There are no prerequisites for this project but familiarity with data analysis in R would be useful.
The project will be co-supervised by Richard Gill and Dr Andres Arce who together have a wealth of knowledge of insect pollinator biology and evolutionary ecology.
Project proposal limitations
The project proposer has indicated that there are some limitations to the availability of this project. It may only be available at certain times of year or suit a specific project length. It may also need skills taught to students on a particular course or courses.
Research project proposals are usually part of an active research programme. If supervisors have stated limitations to a proposal, then they are unlikely to have any flexibility. If you are very interested in the topic but have problems with the stated limitations, the supervisor may still be happy to talk to you about other options around the proposal, but you should not expect that any alternative arrangements can be made.
Project length limitations
3.5 months, 5 months, 9 months
Available date limitations
Autumn (Sept-Oct), Winter (January), Spring (April-May)
Ecology Evolution and Conservation, Computational Methods in Ecology and Evolution (MSc), Computational Methods in Ecology and Evolution (MRes), Ecological Applications, Ecosystem and Environmental Change MRes, Taxonomy and Biodiversity [NHM MSc], Biosystematics [NHM MRes]