PhD candidate (Evolutionary Biology) with
Christophe Eizaguirre (Conservation Genetics) at Queen Mary University of London
Manfred Milinski (Department of Evolutionary Ecology) at Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology
My main focus for my PhD is understanding how sexual selection interacts with other natural selection pressures (e.g. parasites and predators). More specifically we are interested in the genetic basis of female mate choice in the three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus). While female stickleback select their partner on a multitude of different secondary sexual signals (i.e. odour, courtship behaviour, throat colouration and nest quality) these factors are intrinsically linked to the males genetic quality. Particular the gene region of the Major Histocompatibility Complex, which encodes peptides essential for pathogen and parasite recognition and elimination, was associated with many of these sexual signals and female mate choice. Females select their partner based on an optimal MHC composition to grant increased resistance against a variable and dynamic parasite community (for a comprehensive review on how this plays out in sticklebacks click here). However, sticklebacks inhabit an environment with lurking predators, newly invading parasites and an ever-changing abiotic baseline due to human disturbances.
My PhD aims to understand mate choice in a highly complex (arguably more natural) context.
While sexual and natural selection dynamics fascinate me, I also have a keen interest in more applied and conservation-oriented research. I follow research to incorporate evolutionary concepts into conservation actions in order to gain a more holistic protection. I value research aiming to understand the functional roles of important trophic guilds for habitat and ecosystem restoration. Understanding these dynamics and their interplay with regards to an ever-changing planetary system I consider one of the key research areas of the future.