Godfrey Hewitt Mobility Award
Godfrey Hewitt (1940-2013) was President of the European Society for Evolutionary Biology (ESEB) from 1999-2001. He was exceptionally influential in evolutionary biology both through his research and through his mentoring of young scientists. He was also a great believer in seeing organisms in their environment first-hand and in exchanges of ideas between labs. Therefore, ESEB annually offers mobility grants for young scientists in his name.
More information about Godfrey M. Hewitt is available at Wikipedia and at the Evolution Tree – The Academic Genealogy of Evolutionary Biology.
Call for Applications
The next deadline for proposals will be announced in autumn 2021.
The award is open to PhD students or postdoctoral scientists who are, at the closing date for applications, within 6 years of the start date of their PhD and ESEB members. In addition, applicants will be considered who are more than 6 years from the start of their PhD if they have had career breaks, worked part-time, or for other reasons have not worked continuously. Applicants who have previously received a Godfrey Hewitt mobility award are not eligible. The maximum single award will be 2000 Euros. It must be used to support fieldwork or a period of research at a lab that you have not previously visited. There is no restriction on the country of residence or nationality of the applicant. A report will be required after one year, except an extension has been granted as mentioned below.
Note: Due to the COVID-19 situation, and in order to promote responsible and safe travel without compromising the quality of research, grantees of the 2021 ESEB Godfrey Hewitt mobility awards will be allowed to travel within 24 months from the date of announcement of the winners.
Your application should be sent as a single PDF file to Ute Moniatte at the ESEB office, email@example.com. It should include your name, current status and institution, your PhD start date, your ESEB membership number, a description of the work to be carried out (maximum 500 words), an outline budget with brief justification (maximum 100 words) and a signed statement from your PhD supervisor or postdoctoral adviser (maximum 100 words) explaining why the work cannot be funded from your home institution or your proposed host institution.
Applications will be considered by a committee chaired by Frida Ben-Ami. The aim will be to announce decisions before the end of March 2022. In previous rounds, success rates have been between 20 and 40%.
The committee will consider the following key criteria:
1. The value of the proposed mobility in terms of its expected output and impact on the applicant’s career. The committee prefers projects that are:
- Not a core component of the applicant’s existing PhD or postdoctoral project, but a new venture.
- Clearly based on the applicant’s own initiative
- Likely to be completed and have definable output within the award period
- Have the potential to lead to larger future projects or to enhance the applicant’s career in evolutionary biology
2. The need for the GHM award, i.e. the potential for the funding provided by ESEB to make a difference, in relation to resources already available through the home or host institution.
Please endeavour to address these points in your application.
Accepted Proposals 2021
Mathematical modeling of phylogenies coevolving on multiple levels
Applicant: Hugo Menet, Université Claude Bernard Lyon, FR
Funding provided: 2100 €
Isolation-by-distance-in-time during habitat loss and fragmentation: estimating time since fragmentation from genetic data
Applicant: Gabriele Sgarlata, Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência, PT
Funding provided: 2040 €
Replicated evolution in a host-parasite system
Applicant: Anika Wohlleben, Clark University, Worcester, MA, US
Funding provided: 1315 €
Accepted Proposals 2020
Modelling HBV within-cell and within-host evolutionary dynamics
Applicant: Thomas Beneteau, University of Montpellier, FR
Funding provided: 1800 €
Identification of non-coding RNA elements associated with wasp sociality evolution
Applicant: Emeline Favreau, University College London, UK
Funding provided: 1600 €
Genomics of sex determination in the Hawaiian Wikstroemia, a radiation of flowering plants with multiple evolutionary origins of dioecy
Applicant: Colin Olito, Lund University, SE
Funding provided: 1890 €
Studying the evolution of plant sex chromosomes in the Silene acaulis species complex
Applicant: Djivan Prentout, CNRS / University of Lyon, FR
Funding provided: 1800 €
Challenging lifespan extension via reduced insulin signalling with ecologically complex environments
Applicant: Daniel Pritchard, University of Muenster, DE
Funding provided: 1800 €
Ecological context of polymorphism in aposematic colouration: case study of the Mediterranean black widow
Applicant: Jan Raška, Charles University, CZ
Funding provided: 1250 €
Accepted Proposals 2019
Genomic Study of Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis Virus across the House Mouse Hybrid Zone
Applicant: Alena Fornuskova, Czech Academy of Sciences, CZ
Funding provided: 2000 €
In 2018, I have received the grant within 4th call for the Programme for Research and Mobility Support of Starting Researchers by CAS. The aim of supported project was to investigate whether geographically and genetically distinct subspecies of Mus musculus carry distinct lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) strains and whether ongoing hybridization could potentially allow LCMV to switch host, by sampling in detail across their contact zone. Part of the project was planned as the foreign stay at the University of Edinburgh (13. 7. 2019 – 26. 1. 2020). The aim of this stay was to learn how to analyse genomic data and then analyse my own LCMV genomic data. However, with two small kids (4 and 2 years), the relocation of whole family showed up as financially demanding project. Thanks to Godfrey Hewitt Mobility Award we were able to combine the care of our children (our kids frequented great Outdoor Nursery Edinburgh) and work. During my stay I had opportunity to learn how to process, analyse (e.g. quality control, de-novo assembly) and interpret genomic data. I also attended here one week-long genomic course lead by bioinformaticians from Edinburgh Genomics. After this course I was able to work with my own LCMV data and start to analyse them. During my stay at the University of Edinburgh I have also opportunity to learn how to isolate long DNA fragments by Phenol Chloroform extraction and process sequencing by MinION, the portable, real-time device for DNA and RNA sequencing. GHM award definitely helped us to balance our family budget and allowed me to take part in this fellowship, which was certainly beneficial for my scientific career.
Costs and benefits of sociality in the socially polymorphic orchid bee Euglossa viridissima
Applicant: Anna Friedel, University of Halle, DE
Funding provided: 1183 €
Genetics of adaptation in cardiac-glycoside resistant populations of Drosophila subobscura
Applicant: Marianthi Karageorgi, UC Berkeley, US
Funding provided: 2000 €
Male reproductive investment when there is a risk of embryonic lethality
Applicant: Erin Macartney, University of New South Wales, AU
Funding provided: 2000 €
Thanks to the Godfrey Hewitt Mobility award, I was able to visit the University of Zurich for two months in 2019 to collaborate on an experiment with Prof. Dr. Stefan Lüpold. While we had issues with the Wolbachia infected Drosophila melanogaster lines that were initially going to be used for this project, I was able to complete a novel experiment that examined genotype x diet interactions on male reproductive performance. For this, we used isolines of flies that were genetically modified to ubiquitously express green fluorescent protein in the sperm heads and somatic cells. Each isoline was reared on either a high, intermediate, or low nutrient diet to allow a G x E experimental design. Males from each of the diet and isoline combination were allowed to consecutively mate with up to five different females, and the reproductive behaviour with each female was recoded. After each mating had ceased, the reproductive tracts of the females were dissected, and the number of sperm transferred at each mating was counted under a microscope fitted with a fluorescent filter. Through this, we detected interesting patterns in male ability to invest in reproduction, including rapid sperm depletion and increasing reluctance to mate with each successive female. We also show effects of diet and isoline on male reproductive performance. This project led to further follow up experiments that are in the process of being combined and prepared for publication. This was a highly valuable experience for me as it allowed me to develop many new skills and form new connections. This project ultimately led to being awarded a Swiss Government Excellence Post-Doctoral Scholarship to continue research in this area (unfortunately declined due to the international COVID situation).
Uncovering the role of predation in the evolution of trade-offs between organ sizes and behaviour
Applicant: David Mitchell, Stockholm University, SE
Funding provided: 1350 €
The evolution of costly resistance at the range edge – a novel empirical test of host-pathogen interactions in space
Applicant: Louise Noergaard, Monash University, AU
Funding provided: 1750 €
Can balancing selection maintain genetic diversity in endangered populations?
Applicant: María Lucena Pérez, Doñana Biological Station, ES
Funding provided: 1750 €
The Godfrey Hewitt Mobility Award allowed me to stay one month at the UCL Genetics Institute in July 2019 working under the supervision of Aida Andrés. The main aim of this project was to analyse how balancing selection shapes genomic patterns at functional loci in populations subjected to different levels of genetic drift. Precisely we worked on the question: to what extent can balancing selection maintains diversity despite the effect of genetic drift? To do so, we are using one pre-bottleneck (ancient) and two different post-bottleneck (contemporary) populations of the highly endangered Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus). During this month I was working on developing and running a script to analyse whole-genome data. This script comprises several steps. First, we run NCD2 statistics on allele frequency data. This statistic –developed in Aida’s lab- detects signatures of long-term balancing selection on different genomic regions by measuring the difference between a target frequency (assumed to be the equilibrium frequency under balancing selection, e.g. 0.5) and the allele frequency of a particular region (considering SNPs and fixed differences as informative sites). Once we have detected regions under balancing selection in the three populations, we characterized these regions and compared them among the different populations. For instance, we tested whether windows under balancing selection are enriched for functional SNPs, or if among the genes under balancing selection we found any GO-term being enriched. Preliminary results suggest that the comparison of the pre-bottleneck and post-bottleneck populations will give us valuable insights on the action of balancing selection and drift on species facing similar conservation concerns. Besides progressing on my research, being at the UCL allowed me to interact with different researchers that could potentially lead to future collaborations. Altogether, the experience has been invaluable to me, and it would surely boost my future research stages.
Accepted Proposals 2018
The role of regulatory variation in courtship behaviour in the peacock blenny Salaria pavo: a matter of phenotypic plasticity or genetic differentiation?
Applicant: Sara Cardoso, Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência, PT
Funding provided: 1560 €
During my PhD thesis, I was interested in studying how changes in gene expression underlie phenotypic plasticity and variation within species, allowing organisms to respond to environmental cues and maximise their fitness accordingly. To tackle this problem, I focused my research on the peacock blenny Salaria pavo, which exhibits both intra- and inter-specific variation in reproductive behaviour. In the present project, my aim was to investigate whether gene expression was the main driver in sex role shift in courtship behaviour between two populations of the peacock blenny, or genetic differentiation was also a player in the observed plasticity. The Godfrey Hewitt Mobility Award allowed me to spend three weeks at Dr Alison E. Wright’s lab, a NERC Independent Research Fellow at the University of Sheffield with extensive knowledge in genomic and evolutionary processes underlying sex differences. Our strategy of analysis was to test for differences in mating competition among populations, where we compared rates of evolution and population-level polymorphisms across sex-biased and unbiased genes for brain and gonads and link these patterns of expression and selection to the corresponding roles in courtship behaviour. During my stay, I had the opportunity to develop my bioinformatic skills and learn cutting-edge techniques for analysing next-generation sequencing data, as well as to improve my knowledge in evolutionary analyses and test different hypothesis for my work in particular.
On the origin of cryptic species: Insights from the Stygocapitella subterranea species complex
Applicant: José Cerca, University of Oslo, NO
Funding provided: 1230 €
The aim of my PhD dissertation research is to understand the causes underlying deceleration of morphological divergence. Several reasons have been speculated, including on-going gene flow (admixture), reduction of standing genetic variation, genetic and developmental constraints. Funds from the Godfrey Hewitt Mobility Award allowed me to travel to the University of Urbana Champaign in Illinois (UIUC) to work with Prof. Julian Catchen who is a renown bioinformatician. During this research exchange, I received orientation and training on RADseq data analyses, focusing on mitigating biases of PCR-duplication in the generated dataset. We have discovered that morphologically-identical worms are genetically distinct, yet some degree of admixture has occurred in the past (i.e. gene-flow in ancient lineages).
Evolution of dispersal in spatially structured foodwebs
Applicant: Lynn Govaert, KU Leuven, BE
Funding provided: 2000 €
Identifying the consequences and drivers of context-dependent dispersal is important for both ecological and evolutionary research. The role of dispersal for community structure may strongly depend on the dispersal strategy (e.g. informed versus uninformed) used, and this may consequently influence diversity patterns found in the metacommunity. The Godfrey-Hewitt mobility award allowed me to visit the lab of CRNS researcher Dr. Emanuel Fronhofer to set up an individual-based model to investigate the consequences of the evolutionary stable strategy for context-dependent versus uninformed dispersal. Because few studies looked at the effects of context-dependent dispersal to diversity patterns in a metacommunity context, I decided to first focus on the consequences of context-dependent dispersal in horizontal communities. Using two different sets of network structures (Nearest-Neighbour 8 versus optimal channel network) that differ in connectivity and topology, we explored the eco-evolutionary consequences of contextdependent versus random dispersal and its consequences for biodiversity. I found that contextdependent dispersal results in higher local diversity. However, the underlying mechanisms explaining this pattern depended on the landscape context. For the optimal channel network, increased diversity was mediated through higher evolutionary stable context-dependent dispersal rates. Whereas for the nearest neighbour landscape this was due to fitness equalizing mechanisms. During this project, I received extensive training in ecological and evolutionary modelling on dispersal dynamics in metacommunities. This project formed the basis for future projects with the lab of Dr. Fronhofer, in which we will continue to investigate the ecological and evolutionary consequences of context-dependent dispersal in more complex settings.
Modelling disease spread in a genetically and spatially structured population.
Applicant: Ailene MacPherson, University of British Columbia, CA
Funding provided: 1500 €
Pathogens are pervasive effecting nearly every living organism often with strong fitness effects. Coevolution between hosts and their pathogens is therefore common and is a process that has the potential to shape biodiversity. The endangerment and extinction of a number of species is indeed known to be affected by their pathogens in the form of infectious disease. Our goal, therefore, was to understand how coevolution between hosts and infectious pathogens effects the genetic diversity of small populations. Combining mathematical techniques from epidemiology and population genetics we found that coevolutionary mechanisms act to reduce the genetic variability of small populations and increase the variability of large ones. We identify several predictors for the sensitivity of a population to loss of genetic variation through parasitism and explore their implications for future conservation efforts.
Is mitochondrial function a proximate mechanism promoting offspring phenotypic integration?
Applicant: Bibiana Montoya, Universidad Autónoma de Tlaxcala, MX
Funding provided: 1600 €
Mitochondria are organelles present in almost all animal cells that not only set the efficiency at which organisms convert food into cellular energy (ATP) during oxidative phosphorylation (OXHPOS respiration) but also act as important signaling center and are involved in the redox homeostasis. Therefore, changes in mitochondrial function can impact a wide range of phenotypic traits as a consequence of alterations in ATP production or redox homeostasis. Remarkably, mitochondria have receptors for steroid hormones, and exposure to these hormones have demonstrated to modulate the organelle functions through a wide range of pathways, from changes in gene expression and mitochondrial protein synthesis to (un)activation of mitochondrial complexes involved in ATP and redox homeostasis. Hence, maternally-derived androgens may affect mitochondrial function during development and ultimately account for pleiotropic effects on offspring phenotype. The Godfrey Hewitt Mobility Award allowed me to join Dr. Pierre Bize’s group (University of Aberdeen) to work in the alpine swift colony breeding at Bienne and Solothurn (Switzerland), and receive training to measure mitochondrial function using high resolution respirometry. During the research stay, we run a pilot study analyzing mitochondrial function from parents and offspring through the reproductive event and developed a collaborative project to keep on exploring the interplay between maternally derived hormones and mitochondrial function.
A comparative analysis of the relationship between future fitness expectations and male lifespan.
Applicant: William Sowersby, Stockholm University, SE
Funding provided: 1050 €
Comparative studies of parasitic plants’ haustorial system: structural and phylogenetic perspectives.
Applicant: Luiza Teixeira-Costa, University of Sao Paulo, BR
Funding provided: 1500 €
The Godfrey Hewitt Mobility Award allowed to spend three months working with Dr. Gilberto Ocampo at the Autonomous University of Aguascalientes, Mexico. During that period, I worked on evolutionary aspects of parasitic plant morphology, especially analyzing and comparing the structure of the haustorium, an organ that mediates the communication between parasitic plants and their hosts, among different plant clades. Under the supervision of Dr. Ocampo, I was able to further my knowledge on plant phylogenetics, learning how to use different software and performing a broad range of analyses. I was also able to plan and carry out field trips in three different Mexican states. During these trips, 10 parasitic plant species were sampled, most of them endemic to Mexico and Central America, such as Lennoa madreporoides (Lennoacaeae) and Mitrastemon matudae (Mitrastemonaceae), rare and poorly understand species. Finally, I was also able to visit two of the largest herbaria in Mexico, the Herbarium of the National Autonomous University of Mexico and the Herbarium of the Ecology Institute. The work carried out during my time in Mexico provided results for three chapters of my PhD thesis, which was defended and approved earlier this year. One of these chapters has been recently approved to be published as part of a book by on plant ontogeny. The second and third ones will soon be submitted to publication.
Using quantum dots to determine the effect of floral colour variation on pollen movement
Applicant: Judith Trunschke, Uppsala University, SE
Funding provided: 2000 €
The Cape floristic region is famous for its extraordinary diversity in floral forms and functions and pollination modes, making it an ideal place to study pollinator-driven diversification and speciation in flowering plants. Thanks to the support from the Godfrey Hewitt mobility award I was able to join the lab of Prof. Bruce Anderson at Stellenbosch University to conduct a short-term postdoc project after completing my PhD studies. Anderson´s lab has recently developed a novel method to label individual pollen grains, which offers the possibility to track pollen movement between flowers of different kind and study pollinator mediated reproductive isolation. Using this method, we could show that two sympatric colour morphs of the sundew Drosera cistiflora attract distinct pollinator assemblages, and that this results in strong assortative mating. Thus, our experiment supported the hypothesis that floral colour is not only locally adapted to different pollinator communities among populations as previously studied by Anderson, but also that colour variation leads to reproductive isolation in sympatry. Because speciation requires both divergence and reproductive isolation, the project added importantly to our understanding of the role of flower colour for divergence in D. cistiflora. Personally, this research visit provided me various new experiences and skills that will be advantageous for my future career.
Accepted Proposals 2017
Co-evolutionary dynamics of cymothoid Isopods and their fish hosts
Applicant: Charles Baillie, University of Salford, UK
Funding provided: 1650 €
One of the single most extraordinary examples of host-parasite co-evolution is shown by cymothoid isopods, which are obligate parasites of fish, including many commercially important species. Cymothoids are highly diverse with ~400 species across 43 genera,and exhibit striking parasitic strategies: some species even supplant their host’s tongue! Yet, despite such remarkable adaptations little is known about the evolutionary history of the family, the processes that created the remarkable diversity of extant taxa and the contemporary pattern of host-parasite interactions. I using a phylogenomic approach to research the co-evolutionary dynamics of cymothoids and their hosts with molecular sequence data obtained from museum specimens. The Godfrey Hewitt Mobility Award allowed me to extract and analyse DNA from 40 cymothoid species collected from the National Museum of Natural History, Washington D.C., and to receive laboratory and bioinformatics training specific to the study of ancient DNA from the Paleogenomics lab at the University of California Santa Cruz.
The role of neuroanatomy in the evolution of innate odor preference in orchid bees
Applicant: Philipp Brand, University of California, Davis, US
Funding provided: 1200 €
Innate behavior is crucial in the life history of most animal species. In insects, innate preferences are responsible for a multitude of behaviors including flower visitation in naïve pollinators and mate finding in moths. However, despite its importance in animal behavior, the evolution of innate preferences remains poorly understood. The Godfrey Hewitt Mobility Award allowed me to spend 4 weeks with Jean- Christophe Sandoz at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) in Gif- sur-Yvette, France, to study neural mechanisms underlying the evolution of innate odor preferences in orchid bees. I received detailed training in techniques to characterize the neuroanatomy of olfactory centers of the brain including tissue preparation, confocal microscopy, and 3D reconstruction of neuropils. This allowed me to characterize the neuroanatomy of male and female orchid bees of different species culminating in a paper published in the Journal of Comparative Neurology. The paper describes sexual dimorphism in the orchid bee brain, including female- specific and male-specific structures that might be involved in social and sexual communication. Ongoing and future projects with the Sandoz lab will allow me to study the neuronal evolution of innate odor preferences in orchid bee chemical communication in more detail.
Selfish sharing: When does helping your partner survive make sense?
Applicant: Benjamin Hopkins, University of Oxford, UK
Funding provided: 1200 €
I was fortunate enough to use my Godfrey Hewitt Mobility Award to spend several weeks working in Prof. Hanna Kokko’s lab at the University of Zürich. While my DPhil work at the University of Oxford was focused on the molecular mechanisms of sperm competition and the evolution of ejaculate composition, this award provided me with the opportunity to dedicate time to working on a quite different problem I was interested in: why do pair-bonded birds continue to display after selecting a mate? The most commonly cited explanation for the elaborate displays seen between partnered bird species is their use in mate choice. But there are numerous examples of displays, such as incubation stint changeover duets in Procellariforms and nest-site selection dances in boobies, that take place long after partnerships form. Long, even, after the chick has hatched. I was interested in the possibility that such displays might be used to communicate information between partners, information that can be used to optimally coordinate parental care to ensure a partner’s survival. During my time with Hanna, I worked on a synthetic review that explored this possibility, but it raised an additional, more fundamental, problem: when should an individual care about their partner’s survival in the first place? After all, there may be ‘plenty more fish in the sea’, so to speak. With Hanna, I received training in constructing evolutionary models, which I used to build a model of the evolution of partner care to explore conditions under which individuals may redirect investment from parental to partner care. The experience was hugely enriching and provided me with a new network of collaborators, for which I am very grateful.
Sexual vs. natural selection: Which is more important in anthropic habitats?
Applicant: Maider Iglesias Carrasco, Aranzadi Society of Sciences & Dep. of Evolutionary Ecology, National Museum of Natural History (CSIC), ES
Funding provided: 1800 €
The Godfrey Hewitt Mobility Award allowed me to spend 3 months in 2017 at the Australian National University working with Prof. Michael Jennions and Dr. Megan Head. With them I explored the condition dependent costs of mating for females in the seed beetle Callosobruchus maculatus, which led to an article published in Behavioral Ecology in 2018. This beetle is a commonly used model species to study the evolution and implications of sexual conflict. During my project, I wanted to test whether the rearing environment of males and females affected the costs that males impose on their mates. This is because both sexually antagonistic male traits and the female’s ability to resist male-imposed costs might be condition-dependent. By experimentally manipulating female and male body condition by rearing larvae on a good or poor quality diet I tested whether the fitness cost of mating for a female depended on her and/or her mate’s body condition. As expected, females in better condition had higher fitness, and females differed in their behaviour in relation to male condition. Both results are potentially indicative of greater sexual conflict. Although my original project aimed to explore the effects of urbanization in lizards, the difficulty in capturing an adequate sample size of animals made me change the experiment. This experience with a new model system and in a slightly different topic provided me with a new set of skills that will be useful in my future research stages.
Dependence of a dynamic terminal investment threshold on diet-related condition in male crickets
Applicant: Kristin R. Duffield, Illinois State University, Normal, Illinois, US
Funding provided: 1800 €
The aim of my dissertation research is to understand how individuals invest in specific life history traits (namely, reproduction and immunity) when faced with survival threats under various circumstances (e.g., across age and genotypes). Funds from the Godfrey Hewitt Mobility Award allowed me to travel to Western Sydney University (WSU) to work with Dr. John Hunt to explore how nutrition-dependent condition influences reproduction and immunity following an immune-challenge, thus expanding the scope of my dissertation. Hunt is an expert on nutritional geometry, a technique which tests effects of specific combinations of macronutrients while holding caloric value constant. During this trip, I received training on preparing these diets as well as refining my techniques and methodology in nutritional geometry to prepare for use at my home institution this summer (2018). Additionally, I was able to collaborate with Dr. Clarissa House (also of WSU) to develop sperm quantification techniques within my study system (the decorated cricket, Gryllodes sigillatus). We discovered that G. sigillatus sperm can readily be counted without the use of costly and time-consuming DNA-staining techniques due to their autofluorescence under UV light. I also received training on gas-chromatography mass-spectrometry to analyze amino acid profiles (which are known to influence quality) of spermatophylaxes (which function as nuptial gifts in this species) and cuticular hydrocarbons profiles derived from G. sigillatus. During my month-long stay at WSU, I have received training on techniques and fostered collaborations which will be invaluable to me following graduation at the end of the year and throughout my research career.
Adaptive evolution of color changing molts in hares
Applicant: Mafalda Sousa Ferreira, University of Porto & CIBIO-InBIO, PT
Funding provided: 1800 €
In my PhD thesis, I am studying the evolution of seasonal coat color change in hares (Lepus). I am applying genomic tools (phylogenomics, population genomics) to understand how many times seasonal camouflage evolved in the genus and to study its genetic basis. The Godfrey Hewitt Mobility Award allowed me to start a population level study using white-tailed jackrabbits (Lepus townsendii) as a new model to study the evolution and genetic basis of winter coat color determination. I organized a field expedition to Colorado, in January 2018, in collaboration with Prof. Jeffrey Good and Prof. Scott Mills, from the University of Montana. The main aim of this field expedition was to collect specimens along a transition zone of winter coat color in white-tailed jackrabbits to perform a genome scan for winter coat color genetic determinants. The laboratory work including these samples is underway. With this expedition, I not only obtained samples, but also gained field work experience, and established contacts at the University of Montana and in Colorado, that will be useful for future research. Finally, this was the first field expedition to include a new system, the white-tailed jackrabbit, in a broad collaborative project that aims at studying the evolution and ecology of seasonal coat color change.
Testing for ecological and reproductive isolation between parapatric populations of three-spined sticklebacks inhabiting contrasting thermal environments
Applicant: Natalie Pilakouta, University of Glasgow, UK
Funding provided: 1800 €
This award allowed me to spend 5 weeks in North Iceland in June-July 2017 to conduct a field experiment. The main aim of this project was to investigate the balance between gene flow and divergent selection at a sympatric population of three-spined sticklebacks inhabiting a geothermally heated pond and an adjacent cold lake. These warm-water and cold-water sticklebacks are morphologically and physiologically divergent despite the absence of a geographical barrier between them. Since the two habitats are connected by a narrow creek, there is potential for gene flow. To test for dispersal between these habitats, I PIT-tagged 400 sticklebacks and tracked their movements over a 1-month period. During this visit, I had the opportunity to meet and interact with researchers at Hólar University College, which could potentially lead to future collaborations.
Telomere dynamics during winter in food- and fat-storing hibernators: a comparative analysis
Applicant: Mathilde Tissier, University of Strasbourg, FR
Funding provided: 1908 €
Hibernation is defined as a succession of torpor phases, during which animals decrease their metabolism and their body temperature to a large extent. Most hibernators – i.e. fat-storing hibernators – fatten prior to hibernation and rely to a large extent on stored fat as an energy source in winter whereas food-storing hibernators hoard very large amounts of food in their burrow prior to winter and rely exclusively on these hoards as an energy source throughout winter. Although torpor is expressed throughout winter, hibernators do not remain constantly torpid. Bouts of torpor are indeed interrupted by periodic rewarming (arousals), followed by euthermic phases. Fat- and food-storing hibernators exhibit important variations in their hibernation pattern. Fat-storing hibernators express long and deep bouts of torpor compared to food-storing hibernators. Consequently, food-storing hibernators arouse more frequently and spend more time euthermic than fat-storing hibernators. The duration of the euthermic phases and the number of arousals have been correlated to cellular ageing in fat-storing hibernators. I thus aim at comparing cellular ageing of fat- and food-storing hibernator species in relation with their pattern of hibernation, with the main hypothesis that food-storing hibernators will express greater rates of ageing than fat-storing hibernators, associated to reduced somatic maintenance during hibernation. The ESEB financial support allowed me to collecting data on the fat-storing Columbian ground squirrel (Spermophilus columbianus) in Canada. My stay at the RB Miller Research Station (University of Calgary) field station has been dedicated to the development of the buccal swabs technique on this species, data collection and the associated DNA extraction for cellular ageing analyses.
Accepted Proposals 2016
Epigenetic Modifications underlying Paternal Genome Elimination in Planococcus citri
Applicant: Stevie Anne Bain, Institute of Evolutionary Biology, University of Edinburgh, UK
Funding provided: 2000€
The Godfrey Hewitt Mobility Award allowed me spend 4 weeks with Dr Patrick Ferree at Claremont Colleges, California as part of my PhD research on epigenetic mechanisms involved in Paternal Genome Elimination (PGE) in the scale insect, Planococcus citri. The main aim of the visit was to get training in the use of cytogenetic techniques to study the epigenetic mechanisms involved in PGE. I used equipment provided by the Ferree laboratory to dissect, fix and stain gametes and embryos in order to establish the presence or absence of histone modifications involved in gene silencing. This skill is extremely useful for my research, as part of my thesis will focus on the role of histone modifications in PGE species throughout development. I was also trained to use confocal microscopy. Finally, I was able to exchange ideas with an expert in the field of epigenetic modifications and their role in insect reproduction and also start collaboration between our two research groups.
The evolution of body condition-dependent dispersal
Applicant: Celina Baines, University of Toronto, Mississauga, CA
Funding provided: 2000€
For my PhD thesis, I am studying the evolution of dispersal, which is the movement of organisms between habitat patches. Dispersal influences a wide variety of evolutionary processes, including local adaptation and speciation; however, despite its importance, we lack a full understanding of how dispersal depends on characteristics of the environment and the individual. This is because dispersal is difficult to study in the field or lab. The Godfrey Hewitt Mobility Award allowed me to travel to Scotland to work with Dr. Justin Travis, an ecoevolutionary modeller. We built a theoretical model to explore how dispersal is influenced by environmental and phenotypic factors. In this model, individuals disperse between habitat patches of different quality in order to avoid competing with other individuals, especially their relatives. However, dispersing incurs a cost: every time an individual disperses, it uses up some of its energy reserves. Using this model, we found that populations evolve strategies in which individuals with large energy reserves disperse, but individuals with low energy reserves do not. We plan to test this theoretical prediction in a real biological system – the common backswimmer (Notonecta undulata), a semi-aquatic insect.
Deciphering the expression-fitness landscape across genes and environments
Applicant: Inês Fragata, Instituto Gulbenkian da Ciência (IGC), Oeiras, PT
Funding provided: 1980 €
The fitness landscape is a useful metaphor for the study of the relationship between genotypes or phenotypes, and fitness. Previous studies have shown that increasing gene expression can mask the effects of deleterious mutations, which suggests that the expression-fitness landscape may impact on how organisms adapt to new environments. This project provided an initial assessment of the fitness landscape of gene expression, using empirical data of yeast clones with several levels of Hsp90 expression growing in different environments, in a total of 50 experimental treatments. We observed that the expression-fitness landscape is more extensively affected by temperature than by salinity gradients. The exploratory data obtained through this project serve as the basis for a grant proposal to the Portuguese Science Foundation, and an evaluation of the obtained results by means of a theoretical model will be presented at this year’s ESEB conference.
Genomic changes associated with a climate-induced range expansion
Applicant: Marie Louis, University of St Andrews, UK
Funding provided: 1800 €
The ESEB’s Godfrey Hewitt Mobility Award allowed me to do two visits to the ancient DNA (aDNA) laboratory of the Centre for GeoGenetics in Copenhagen. The aim was to investigate the genomic dynamics of a leading-edge niche colonisation using the bottlenose dolphin as a case-study species. I learned ancient DNA laboratory techniques with Dr. Andrew Foote that is DNA extraction from dolphin subfossil samples from 5,600 to 9,000 YBP, library preparation and library quality-checks. We build 42 libraries on 22 samples using normal extraction and for some of them bleach treatment previous extraction. We sequenced the libraries on one lane of sequencing and then processed the data and estimated endogenous content. We are now going to perform whole genome enrichment capture on the three best samples. In addition, our collaborators Petra Korlevic and Dr. Matthias Meyer from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig provided us with a bottlenose dolphin subfossil DNA library with 37% endogenous content. We sequenced the whole genome of this sample at a coverage of 4x. Preliminary results indicated that there may have been past admixture between dolphin populations that were thought to be on totally distinct evolutionary trajectories. The ancient samples will therefore allow revisiting the demographic history of the species.
A test on the linearity of genetic correlations among floral traits from reciprocal artificial selection experiments
Applicant: Pengjuan Zu, Institute of Systematic Botany, University of Zurich, CH
Funding provided: € 1950
My PhD project is about ‘the evolution of floral scent’. Floral scent is one important plant signal that serves multiple functions such as pollinator attraction and herbivore deterrence. However, more quantitative studies and prediction studies are needed to understand the mechanism of floral scent evolution. Prof. Derek Roff is well known for his contributions in quantitative genetics. We collaborated on a short project to explore more interesting patterns of selection and evolution based on my unique dataset of bi-directional artificial selection on floral scent (Zu et al. 2016). There were two main objectives of the project: 1) to find out whether or not some evolutionary processes were undergoing in the low lines in spite of the unchanged population mean; 2) to test whether or not a positive linear trait correlation will remain the same throughout the selection procedures. We found that 1) though mean trait values sometimes did not change after selection, the distributions of scent compound values have changed after selection, suggesting there were undergoing evolutionary responses to selection; 2) two floral scent compounds phenylacetaldehyde and α-farnesene were positive correlated, and the correlation of the two compounds remained unchanged after three-generation selection, albeit the changes of the absolute amount of the two compounds. Thanks to the opportunity and financial support provided by ESEB Godfrey Hewitt Mobility Award, I have the chance to visit Derek Roff’s lab. This experience inspired me in many aspects of scientific research. The collaboration resulted some interesting findings on the quantitative genetic perspectives of floral scent compounds and a manuscript is being prepared based on the findings.
Accepted Proposals 2015
Evolution of temperature-dependent sex determination in reptiles
Applicant: Thomas Merkling, Australian National University, Canberra, AU
Funding provided: € 900
Sex allocation is a field I am very interested in and one the remaining mystery is how and why transitions between genotypic and environmental sex determination occur. The Godfrey Hewitt mobility award allowed me to visit Dr. Lisa Schwanz for 10 days at the University of New South Wales to collaborate on a theoretical model aiming to fill this gap. The idea of the model is that if juvenile survival to maturity is influenced by temperature and if males and females mature at different ages, then temperature-dependent sex determination (a form of environmental sex determination) should be selected for. The aim of my visit was to build a dataset compiling data on sex-determining mechanisms and sex-specific age at maturity of lizards, snakes, crocodiles and tuataras to add to the turtle data already collected by Dr. Schwanz and her colleagues. We then used phylogenetic generalised least square models to test for a relationship between sex-determination mechanisms and difference in age at maturity in these groups, but unfortunately the results did not corroborate the predictions of the model.
Effects of genetics and environment on among‐individual variation in mitochondrial density and functioning in a natural bird population
Applicant: Jennifer Morinay, University Lyon 1 – CNRS, Villeurbanne, FR
Funding provided: € 1750
The Godfrey Hewitt Mobility Award allowed me to carry out a cross-fostering experiment in a natural population of collared flycatchers on the Island Gotland, Sweden. The aim of this experiment was to investigate effects of genetics and environment on among-individual variation in red blood cell (RBC) attributes, particularly mitochondrial density. In contrast to mammals, birds possess functional mitochondria in their RBCs, thus offering unique opportunities to obtain measures of mitochondrial numbers and function using low invasive procedures: blood sampling instead of surgery or culling. Information was collected on RBC parameters in 263 nestlings and 145 adults, and the preliminary results indicate that (i) individuals with larger RBCs have few circulating cells; (ii) larger RBCs are enclosing larger number of mitochondria and lower levels of ATP; (iii) RBC size is moderately heritable (19%); and larger nestlings have smaller RBCs. This work was done in collaboration with Dr. Pierre Bize, University of Aberdeen, and Dr. Blandine Doligez, University of Lyon 1.
Genomic imprinting of soldier-activity loci in polyembryonic parasitoid wasps
Applicant: Petri Rautiala, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, FI
Funding provided: € 1100
The Godfrey Hewitt Mobility Award allowed me to visit Dr. Andy Gardner at the University of St Andrews to construct a mathematical model to investigate the function of the “soldier”-caste of certain polyembryonic parasitoid wasps. Whether the soldiers are there to protect their brothers and sisters, or that they actually kill their brothers to make room for their sisters, has been a source of controversy for over a century. We found that the competing hypotheses make different predications about patterns of gene expression. These contrasting predictions point to a possible resolution of the controversy of the soldiers’ function, and could also help researchers discover new genes for soldiering, by looking at the expression patterns for candidate genes, and see which ones are deactivated according to their parent of origin. The study, “Intragenomic conflict over soldier allocation in polyembryonic parasitoid wasps”, was accepted to be published in the April 2016 issue of The American Naturalist.
Grubs of doubt: The impact of stem-borers on Mercurialis annua life-history traits
Applicant: Luka Rubinjoni, University of Belgrade, Belgrade, RS
Funding provided: € 1750
Thanks to ESEB’s Godfrey Hewitt Mobility award, I was able to conduct a field survey in Spain during the spring of 2015, and a research visit to Prof. John Pannell’s lab at University of Lausanne, Switzerland. I studied the impact of Kalcapion semivitattum (Apionidae), a monophagous folivore with stem-boring larvae, on life-history traits of Mercurialis anuua (Euphorbiaceae), an annual herb with different ploidy levels (from diploid, to hexaploid) and reproductive systems (monoecy, androdioecy, dioecy) across its range. In order to explore the potential role of herbivore specialists in plant reproductive system evolution, I searched for differences in infestation intensity among the plant genders, in natural and experimental conditions. I also looked for evidence of insect specialization to different ploidy levels, and its potential role in contact zone shift and diploid range expansion. The samples were collected across the monecious hexaploid / dioecious diploid contact zone, along the Mediterranean coast, from Barcelona to Valencia. Plants were measured and dissected, and leaf samples were preserved by fast drying in silica gel. Grubs were counted and preserved in alcohol, along with collected adults. In Lausanne, local insects were successfully reared on both diploid and hexaploid plants. A phylogeographic study K. semivittatum across the range of M. annua is in preparation.
Are males and females equally honest? Insights on the determinants of sexual ornaments in a sexually monomorphic bird species: the king penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus)
Applicant: Quentin Schull, University of Strasbourg, Strasbourg, FR
Funding provided: € 1750
When assessing mate or competitor condition, animals often rely on ornamental signals that are costly to produce and/or maintain, thus natural selection is expected to favour the evolution of sexual ornaments that honestly reflect individual quality. Whereas ornaments are known to reflect physiological/social quality of the bearer and be implicated in both male and female king penguin pairing decisions, we lack knowledge on how physiological status during moult, the time these ornaments are renewed, may determine their showy nature. The Godfrey Hewitt Mobility Award allowed me to work under the supervision of Dr Pierre Bize from the University of Aberdeen. By experimentally increasing Corticosterone basal level and stimulating the immune system during moult we highlight that some ornamental features appear more intrinsically linked to genetic individual quality whereas others are determined by individual’s physiological status at the time of the moult.
Showing off in birds: is cooperativeness a mating signal? Experimental study manipulating the audience in the Sociable weavers, Philetairus socius
Applicant: Arnaud Tognetti, Institute for Advanced Study, Toulouse, FR
Funding provided: € 1950
Cooperative behaviours provide benefits to the recipients but are costly to the actor. Cooperative behaviours can only be selected if costs of cooperation are compensated by fitness benefits. These benefits can be either direct or indirect. However, the importance of sexual benefits has been overlooked in non-human species. In collaboration with the Sociable Weaver Research Project lead by Dr. Rita Covas (CIBIO-Portugal & FitzPatrick Institute-South Africa) and Dr. Claire Doutrelant (CNRS-France), I proposed to examine the role of sexual selection in the evolution of cooperation in this cooperatively breeding passerine. I wanted to investigate whether helpers would increase their nestlings provisioning when playbacks of female songs are broadcasted. With the Godfrey Hewitt Mobility Award, I bought the materials needed to conduct field experiments in South Africa. Unfortunately, El Niño phenomenon caused intense drought in Africa that impacted drastically the weavers’ reproduction and prevented me from conducting my experiment. Nonetheless, I initiated a collaboration with Dr. Fanny Rybak (University ParisSud, France), a specialist in acoustic communication, which allowed me to prepared playbacks and performed pilot experiments testing the feasibility of the experiment. I also recorded males and females songs to increase the number of playbacks I will be able to use during the experiment next year. These songs are currently analysed acoustically and show interesting sex differences.
Meiotic Drive Frequency in Morrocan Drosophila
Applicant: Rudi Verspoor, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK
Funding provided: € 1600
X-chromosome meiotic drive frequency in Moroccan Drosophila
Selfish genetic elements are diverse and ubiquitous across the tree of life. Intra-genomic conflict, driven by these elements can cause rapid, population specific co-evolution and speciation genes have been associated with meiotic drive chromosomes (selfish chromosomes that bias their transmission into the next generation at the cost of their sister chromosome). However, despite interest in meiotic drive causing speciation, few tests have examined whether naturally occurring drivers create incompatibilities between populations. Previously, I have found that XCMD from Tunisia is incompatible when crossed into Spain and UK populations, creating strong incompatibilities resulting in male infertility. The Godfrey Hewitt mobility award allowed me to field sample Moroccan populations to expand my work in this system. I found the first definitive evidence that there are active XCMD chromosomes in Moroccan populations of Drosophila subobscura. Results from genetic analysis suggest there is a single origin of meiotic drive in Drosophila subobscura, which subsequently spread across North Africa, and very recently into southern Spain. We find no evidence for incompatibilities between a driver from Tunisia and populations of flies collected from Morocco. There is however, some evidence for suppression of a Tunisian driver in Morocco, which will require further study.
Accepted Proposals 2014
Evolution of interactions between two spider mites species
Applicant: Salomé Clemente, University of Lisbon, Lisbon, PT
Funding provided: € 800
The role of genetic structure and ecologically relevant genetic variation for the adaptive potential of Salix herbacea L.
Applicant: Andrés J. Cortés, Uppsala University, Uppsala, SE
Funding provided: € 1500
Evolution in real time: The invasion of Drosophila suzukii
Applicant: Antoine Fraimout, Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris, FR
Funding provided: € 1500
Spatiotemporal variation in assortative mating in Darwin’s Finches
Applicant: Kiyoko Gotanda, McGill University, Montreal, CA
Funding provided: € 2000
Parasites of Artemia: recognizing the players in a complex system
Applicant: Eva Lievens, University Montpellier 2 & Centre d’Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive (CNRS), FR
Funding provided: € 1547
The evolution of self-organized dominance hierarchies
Applicant: Andrés Quiñones, University of Groningen, Groningen, NL
Funding provided: € 1700
Investigating the influence of environmental change on species extinction
Applicant: Jessica Thomas, Bangor University, UK / University of Copenhagen, DK
Funding provided: € 1700