Hosting structure : Department of Aquaculture & fish Biology, Hólar University – Iceland
& University of Iceland, Reykjavík – Iceland
Dates : 4 to 6 months from June 2022, very flexible and discussable
Gratification : 80 000 ISK per month (around 530€/month)
Context of the study:
Comparative studies might give an insight on how cognition has evolved across taxa. The evolution of spatial cognition is of a particular interest because all animals depend on navigational skills to find food or mates, retrieve the nest and escape predators. Hence, spatial cognitive abilities have an impact on individuals’ fitness and are consequently subject to natural selection. In that sense, spatial cognitive abilities in each population should be locally adapted to its particular ecological conditions.
The Icelandic Arctic charr (Salvelinus alpinus, AC) is found as several sympatric morphs thriving in very different types of habitats, from anadromous to benthic and pelagic lake-resident morphs. We hypothesize cognitive abilities and behavior to be shaped according to both evolutionary history and current ecological factors, implying differential expression patterns of genes linked with spatial cognition and neurogenesis between populations. The project is led by Pr. David Benhaïm (lead PI, Hólar Univ.) in collaboration across Hólar Univ. (Pr. Bjarni K. Kristjánsson, Dr. Camille Leblanc), University of Caen, France (Dr. Christelle Jozet), IFREMER, France (Dr. Marie-Laure Bégout), INRA, France (Dr. Xavier Cousin) and University of Iceland (Pr. Zophonías Jónsson).
The student will specifically identify molecular clues underpinning behavioral and cognitive ability differences between populations, morphs and environments. This will be done by monitoring genes expression patterns in several brain structures of offspring from three wild AC morphs raised under complex vs. plain conditions, that underwent personality and spatial learning tests. To do so, the student will perform:
RNA extractions from several brain regions
qPCR with specially developed PCR primers for a set of genes involved in neurogenesis, neural plasticity and stress regulation
DNA extraction, PCR & gel electrophoreses to genetically sex the test individuals.
If interested, the student will also analyze and interpret the data obtained.
This work will be carried out in Reykjavík at the University of Iceland. The student will be working in close collaboration with a PhD student, Marion Dellinger.
The candidates must be enrolled in a degree in the fields of biotechnology or genetics, or relevant equivalent fields. Meticulousness, experience in laboratory manipulation and a solid sense of organization are required. The ideal candidate has a strong interest in pluridisciplinary research with an emphasis on neurosciences and is willing to improve lab bench skills. S/he enjoys working in a dynamic group but should be able to work independently as well. Statistical skills will be a plus. Working language will be English.
Iceland is eligible for Erasmus+ grants.
Applicants should send an application letter, with a statement of research interests and relevant experience and curriculum vitae as a single pdf to both Pr. David Benhaïm ([email protected]) and Marion Dellinger ([email protected]). Requests for further information can be sent at the same email addresses.