Interested in understanding what makes individuals more or less able to cope with infection, advancing age, or environmental change?


Three PhD positions in evolutionary ecology and genetics

Multiple PhD positions are available to work on themes broadly related to evolutionary ecology and genetics. Projects in the Hall lab include understanding how global change and infectious disease interact to influence population persistence; contrasting the role of males and females in the evolution of pathogen virulence; and, unravelling how invasion fronts can accelerate or hamper the spread of infectious disease. These projects make use of a variety of species of Daphnia, commonly known as the water-flea – a small crustacean that inhabits a range of freshwater habitats, from coastal rock-pools to alpine lakes, and are found throughout Australia and the rest of the world.

Candidates with experience in evolutionary genetics, ecology, or host-pathogen interactions are encouraged to apply, although experience in these areas is not necessary. There are opportunities to design projects that focus on population biology, evolutionary genetics, experimental epidemiology, or combinations of the above. The starting date can be any time during the first half of 2020. Interested candidates should send their academic transcript, along with a cover letter outlining their research interests and motivation to

Theme 1: Sex-specific adaptation and pathogen evolution

The science that guides our understanding of health and infectious disease routinely overlooks the pervading impact of sex. Males and females commonly differ in their susceptibility to infection, yet gaps in current theory limit our ability to understand the consequences of such variation for the evolution of infectious disease. We are looking for a highly-motivated candidate interested in developing both empirical and/or theoretical approaches that help to predict the evolution of infectious disease in any species with separate sexes.

SAY Gipson, L. Jimenez and MD Hall. Host sexual dimorphism affects the outcome of within-host pathogen competition. Evolution, in press.

Hall, MD and Mideo, N. Linking sex differences to the evolution of infectious disease life-histories. Philosophical transactions B, 373 20170431.

Theme 2: How host and pathogen thermal ecology influences adaptation to global change

Global change is predicted to result in both rapidly changing environments and dramatic changes in disease outbreaks. Key to predicting winners and losers under the nexus of infection and global change is any mismatch between hosts and pathogens in their thermal tolerances and adaptive potential. This PhD project aims to explore how tropical and temperate populations might respond to the dual threat of parasitism and changing temperatures, and if the effects will be felt equally between all sexes, individuals, or genotypes in a population.

T Hector, C Sgrò and MD Hall. Pathogen exposure disrupts an organism’s ability to cope with thermal stress. Global Change Biology, in press.

Theme 3: Invasion biology and pathogen evolution

The edge of an invading population coincides with low population density and high resource availability. Theory shows us that these altered conditions cause rapid evolution: leading to increases in invasion speed; modified dispersal and life history traits; and, in the case of a pathogen, altered virulence. Yet studies of host–pathogen interactions often centre on the evolution of disease in stable and non-dynamic host populations. We are looking for candidates to help explore the evolution of infectious disease in light of different demographic dynamics.

LS Nørgaard, BL Phillips, and MD Hall. Can pathogens optimise both transmission and dispersal by exploiting sexual dimorphism in their hosts? Biology Letters, in press.

LS Nørgaard, BL Phillips, and MD Hall. Infection in patchy populations: Contrasting pathogen invasion success and dispersal at varying times since host colonization. Evolution Letters, in press.

Scholarship details

The PhD projects are all fully-funded for a period of 3.5 years and is open to both Australian/NZ domestic and international students who have completed a MSc or Honours degree. A stipend (living-allowance) scholarship of ~$28,000 per annum is provided tax-free (the equivalent of approx. $33,000 before tax) with no teaching requirements for 3.5 years (the length of a PhD in Australia). We also offer travel and establishment allowances to help in your move and our tuition scholarships cover the cost of tuition fees (normally $38,900 per year). Guaranteed funding of project costs and research support, including the costs of attending at least one conference per year, is included.