Population genetics models of rapid adaptation to environmental change
Severe changes in the environment of a population can lead to maladaptation and ultimately extinction unless evolution is rapid, giving rise to genotypes that are well-adapted to the new conditions and rise in frequency. Such a scenario is termed "evolutionary rescue". Whether populations confronted with environmental change survive or go extinct is a key question in evolutionary biology. Which populations have the greatest chances to survive? How do genetic and environmental factors interact to slow down or to speed up adaptation? The extent of human-induced environmental change endangering biodiversity makes answering these questions a pressing need. An answer is equally important in medicine and in agriculture where we aim to eradicate the pathogens or pests and to inhibit the evolution of resistance.
Besides laboratory experiments and field studies, mathematical modeling greatly contributes to our understanding of rapid adaptation to environmental change. The aim of this project is to develop mathematical models for the eco-evolutionary dynamics of evolutionary rescue within the framework of theoretical population genetics. The precise project will be developed together with the student according to their interests.
On the mathematical side, the project involves stochastic modeling in combination with deterministic approaches. Depending on the interests and profile of the student, the focus can be more on analytical work or on computer simulations.
Applicants should have a degree in mathematics, physics, biology, computer science or another related field. Good quantitative skills are essential. Experience in mathematical modeling and knowledge of a programming language (Matlab, Python, Java, R, C, C++,...) is an advantage.