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2 yr Expulsion events as drivers of evolution in endosymbiotic systems using corals as a model system PostDoc – Umeå University, Sweden

Exciting two-year postdoctoral scholarship available (deadline 20th September 2022):

Expulsion events as drivers of evolution in endosymbiotic systems using corals as a model system

The postdoctoral scholar will be based at Umeå University in Sweden, home of the pioneering discovery of CRISPR-Cas9 genetic scissors – a revolution in genetic engineering that has been awarded the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Symbioses are prevalent across many biomes and can be critical to the biodiversity, productivity and survival of some of the most charismatic ecosystems on earth. However, sometimes these symbioses break down; this may be survivable for the individual partners but can also lead to widespread death of both host and symbiont. The evolutionary implications of these symbiotic breakdowns are debated, however, evidence is emerging that they may function in enhancing individual and community fitness via holobiont acclimation and adaptation. Here we use coral reefs as a model system but our results and approach may have broad applicability across other systems where host-symbiont interactions are dynamic including lichens, fig-wasps, and human gut microbiomes.

The disastrous consequences of coral bleaching over the last 20 years are well-known although the evolutionary significance of these bleaching events is less known. Despite the destruction bleaching causes, there is some evidence that given enough time, bleaching events may provide scope for acclimation and adaptation of the holobiont to survive in a warmer world. However, to date, while geologic data point to this process,  there is a paucity of available data on the evolutionary and adaptive processes themselves. Therefore, we cannot determine realistic trajectories of coral survival in a warmer world. This project will use symmetry methods, a novel mathematical approach, to explore the range of biological mechanisms and evolutionary scenarios that could give rise to the same observed bleaching phenomena and use this fresh approach to probe the scope for coral survival to the end of the century using bleaching as the mechanism.

We propose the development of a novel mathematical approach, based on symmetry transformations of differential equations, to investigate invariants and equivalence classes of models describing the co-evolution in endosymbiotic systems. Together with the Fellow, we will develop biophysically informed models of endosymbiotic dynamics and co-evolution and use them to explore the range of possible biological mechanisms governing these processes. We will emphasize the role and dynamics of expulsion events and apply this modelling paradigm to the problem of coral bleaching.

​more information here

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