Thank you for your interest in joining my research group. This page is regularly updated with opportunities for prospective PhD students and postdocs. Feel free to contact me at natalie.pilakouta@abdn.ac.uk if you are interested in any of these positions or if you want to discuss other possibilities.

PhD opportunities

Uncovering the reciprocal effects of physiology and parental care using an integrative approach
(
BBSRC-funded 4-year project)

Parental care improves offspring fitness but is energetically demanding for the parents. A high investment in parental care may therefore have detrimental effects for the parents’ physiology, such as increased oxidative stress and telomere attrition. In addition, the parents’ condition and physiology can influence their capacity to provide parental care. For example, individuals that experience physiological stress prior to or during a breeding attempt might provide a lower level of care.

 

Uncovering the complex relationship between physiology and parental care is especially important in light of climate change and other human-induced environmental changes that expose organisms to stressful conditions. This PhD project will address this knowledge gap using an integrative approach to investigate the reciprocal effects of physiology and parental care. These interactions are still poorly understood but are crucial for assessing population viability and performance. We will also test whether supplementation with antioxidants can potentially alleviate the physiological costs of parental care. This work could provide valuable insights into possible management strategies to moderate the physiological costs of care in animal populations. Lastly, this project has direct relevance to animal health as it investigates the molecular mechanisms linking reproduction to animal physiology.

You can check this link for more details about the project and instructions for how to apply.

Understanding the effects of climate change on nature’s undertakers (burying beetles) and the ecosystem services they provide (NERC-funded 3.5-year project)

Burying beetles are obligate scavengers and are known as nature’s undertakers. They are valuable ecosystem-service providers in woodlands and forests, because they breed on animal carrion, which is the most nutrient-rich form of organic matter. As a part of their elaborate parental care, burying beetles deposit antimicrobial substances on the carcass to prevent bacterial and fungal growth, which influences the rate of decomposition. Previous work has shown that the presence of burying beetles in terrestrial ecosystems plays an important role in promoting nutrient cycling and improving soil fertility

The general aim of this PhD project is to link temperature-induced behavioural changes on the individual level to ecosystem-level processes in a global change context. More specifically, we will use a combination of lab and field experiments to examine how climate change may affect nutrient cycling and other ecosystem services provided by scavengers through its effects on parental care behaviour. We will also investigate possible avenues for mitigating such effects of climate change on ecosystem processes.

You can check this link for more details about the project and instructions for how to apply.

Environmental effects on inbreeding depression

Self-funded 3-year project, supervised by Dr Natalie Pilakouta and Dr Greta Bocedi

Inbreeding results from matings between relatives and typically leads to a reduction in offspring fitness, known as inbreeding depression. However, there is substantial variation in the severity of inbreeding depression among species as well as among and within populations of a species. This variation may be partly driven by differences in the physical or social environment, which can have a major effect on the severity of inbreeding depression.

Given the unprecedented rate of human-induced environmental changes around the world, it is important to understand how changes in environmental conditions might influence the expression and evolution of inbreeding depression. This PhD project will examine the effects of both abiotic environmental components and biotic environmental components on inbreeding depression. The project will be entirely computer-based, combining meta-analytic and theoretical modelling approaches. It is possible for the project to be conducted remotely for part of it or its entire duration.

You can check this link for more details about the project and instructions for how to apply.

postdoctoral opportunities

I am not currently advertisting any postdoctoral positions, but I am always happy to support exceptional postdocs who are interested in applying for external fellowships to join the lab. Prospective postdocs are welcome to contact me directly to discuss project ideas and funding options.

lab values

Our research group champions inclusivity and diversity, and we welcome applicants from diverse backgrounds. We believe enjoyable and high-quality research can only be done in a safe and supportive environment. We do not tolerate discrimination, harassment, or bullying of any form in our group.

While striving to conduct cutting-edge research, we believe that work-life balance is essential and we prioritise mental health. A happier scientist is a better scientist.