Proposals for master’s degree projects in biology
Interested in carrying out a degree project? If you don't find any of the projects below to your liking, please contact any of the research groups at our department.
- Female-limited X-chromosome evolution, 2017/2018
- How do flying insects stay safe?, 2017/2018
- Do small bees see less of the world?, 2017/2018
- Urban green spaces, pollinators and pollination, 2017 (pdf)
- Flower strips for partridges on Öland and their benefits for biodiversity and ecosystem services, 2017/2018
- Population trends of Swedish birds – patterns, causes and consequences, 2017/2018
- Using internet sources to study geographical variation in flower colour
- Sperm attraction in liverworts, 2017/2018 (pdf)
- What does a bee see? Using synchrotron light to understand the visual world of bees, 2017/2018
- Pinning down the retinal movements in orchid bee ocelli, 2017/2018
- Magnetic alignment in animals, 2017/2018
Female-limited X-chromosome evolution
Interested in sex and super female flies?
Are you interested in genetics, sex chromosomes, and evolution, and think it would be fun to work with Drosophila melanogaster?
For the past year and a half, we have been running an evolution experiment with the aim of creating super female flies. We have now reached generation 36 and want to start looking at the flies in greater detail.
You can decide among a number of different fitness components to test, such as reproductive fitness, development time, body size, wing shape, locomotion - or something you decide and design, depending on your own research interest!
We are looking for a motivated master’s student who understands that working with flies is an entirely lab-based job, but thinks that she/he would be a great fit for a job like that.
How do flying insects stay safe?
In their search for food, insects such as bees are able to negotiate the dense clutter around trees and bushes. This is no simple task as, to do this, they must be able to quickly and efficiently detect and avoid obstacles in their path using only their miniature brains and sensory systems. The aim of this project is to understand the strategies that insects use to avoid collisions when flying in clutter. We will use behavioural experiments with different species of bees to understand not only how they avoid collisions but to investigate if there are differences between the behaviour of species that have evolved in different environments, from open grasslands to cluttered forests.
Please contact Emily Baird if you are interested in this proposal.
Do small bees see less of the world?
Substantial variation in body sizes occurs amongst different species of bees, and because many optical properties of eyes vary with size, one would expect body size to impose a significant constraint on vision in small bees. Yet, in many cases smaller species inhabit the same environment and forage at the same flowers as their larger cousins. This presents an interesting model to compare size dependent eye tradeoffs that have evolved amongst closely related species. To investigate this question, we have already obtained tomographic images of the 3D structure of the eyes and optical neuropils of several species from the Meliponine tribe of tropical bees, which span a wide range of body sizes. Additionally, we would like to describe the influence of body size in bumblebees, where substantial size variation occurs within single colonies. We are seeking an enthusiastic Masters student to continue this investigation. You will be trained in histological methods to prepare samples for microCT imaging and the analysis of the tomographic data obtained with this method using Amira and Matlab. In addition to analyzing our preliminary data on Meliponines, you will prepare samples of Bombus terrestris, which will be imaged with synchrotron light at a tomography beamline at the Diamond Light Source in England during Spring, 2016. The analysis of this tomographic data will be used to describe the optical resolution and sensitivity eyes, as well as the volumes of brain regions processing visual information. Ultimately, your findings will indicate what tradeoffs in visual processing occur based on intra- and inter-species size variation in bees.
Flower strips for partridges on Öland and their benefits for biodiversity and ecosystem services
A lot of farmland biodiversity has suffered from the intensification process that has taken place during the last half century. The grey partridge is one such species and on the island of Öland measures are being taken to aid the recovery of the population. These measures mainly consist of the creation of flowery strips that can be used by the chicks for foraging.
Apart from improving the survival of partridges, these flowery strips have the potential to benefit other organisms and ecosystem services. Sowing patches or strips with flowery vegetation in or adjacent to crop fields increases resources of pollen and nectar. Pollinators and natural enemies are two groups that are likely to benefit, and with these also the two ecosystem services pollination and biocontrol. Previous studies have shown that flower strips are beneficial both for common and rare bumblebee species, as well as for parasitoids.
The effects of flower strips on pollination and biocontrol are however not yet fully understood. For example, do flower strips benefit pollinators and natural enemies to such an extent that this translates into better pollination and biocontrol? And does this in turn lead to higher yields? How far into a (flowering) crop is this effect noticeable?
An ongoing project is looking to address some of these questions using flower strips created on uncropped field borders (one of the options for Ecological Focus Areas). That particular project is located in Scania. This provides a possibility to target the same research question in contrasting landscapes as farmland on Öland consists of smaller fields and more ley and pasture than Scania.
You are welcome to discuss your project ideas on these topics with Henrik Smith
Population trends of Swedish birds – patterns, causes and consequences
Within the Swedish Bird Survey (Svensk Fågeltaxering) the population development of Swedish breeding and wintering birds are tracked since more than 40 years. Since 18 years we have systematic monitoring data covering the whole of Sweden in a representative way (the Fixed routes, “standardrutterna”). From this we produce yearly updated national and regional trends for more than 150 bird species.
So far the data has been used to investigate the effect of both climate and land use changes, but much of the data is still unexplored and many questions remain to be answered. For example, how do changing rodent populations such as lemming cycles affect the breeding bird fauna? When and where did the decline of the Greenfinch start, and is it all due to a protozoan parasite? Are the breeding birds trends similar in Sweden and neighbouring countries, and if not, why? We know that the breeding bird fauna in Sweden has been influenced by a warming climate so that more warm-loving species have increased and cold-loving species have declined in numbers. What does it look like during winter – did milder winters change Swedish winter bird communities? And so on… A project can be shaped after your own interest, in terms of species, questions, analysis methods, and so on.
The maintenance of strain diversity in Borrelia afzelii
The tick-transmitted bacterium Borrelia afzelii is one of the causes of Lyme disease in humans. B afzelii consists of a number of different strains; typically about ten different strains are present in a given region. Unfortunately, immunity to one strain does not protect against other strains. Humans, and other animals, can therefore be infected multiple times. Moreover, the large number of strains is the reason it has proved difficult to design a vaccine against Borrelia. The factors maintaining this diversity of strains are not clear, but most likely involve some kind of interactions between strains mediated by host immunity. In the present project, you will collect data on prevalence of B. afzelii strains in several populations, to try to disentangle different hypotheses about the maintenance of strain diversity. The project involves about a week of field work (collecting ticks, for example in the Blekinge archipelago), and extensive lab work (DNA extraction, pcr, cloning, Sanger sequencing, maybe also amplicon sequencing using Illumina).
We seek a highly motivated student with an interest in ecology and evolution of infectious disease, and with experience of molecular genetic lab work and analysis of DNA sequence data (e.g. Molecular Ecology BIOR25).
- Hellgren et al. 2011. The genetic structure of Borrelia afzelii varies with geographic but not ecological sampling scale. Journal of evolutionary biology 24: 159.
- Brisson et al. 2012. Genetics of Borrelia burgdorferi. Annual review of genetics 46: 515.
Lars Råberg (lars.raberg [at] biol.lu.se)
Neus Latorre Margalef (nlatorre [at] uga.edu)
What does a bee see? Using synchrotron light to understand the visual world of bees
Despite their miniature brains and sensory systems, bees are capable of the most extraordinary feats of flight control and navigation. In this project, we want to understand the information that bees use to fly through different environments using 3D models constructed from micro-computed tomography scans performed at a synchrotron. The details of the project can be tailored to the particular interest of the student but some possible methods and techniques that could be used are 3D reconstruction of bee eyes from high-resolution scans, electron microscopy, CT-scanning at a synchrotron and numerical analyses of 3D data.
Please contact Emily Baird if you are interested in this proposal.
Pinning down the retinal movements in orchid bee ocelli
When many animals with camera eyes are exposed to bright light, an iris closes to limit the amount of light reaching the retina by reducing the optical aperture of the eye. However, when using microCT to study the 3D structure of tropical bee eyes, we have recently identified a species of tropical orchid bee, Euglossa impirialis, where a fundamentally different adaption occurs. When the ocelli of these bees are exposed to light, the entire retina appears to move ventrally, with and iris forming a tube leading to the retina, but not reducing its aperture. Our initial observation of this phenomenon was unplanned; hence, we are seeking a motivated Masters student to thoroughly describe these retinal movements and their significance for orchid bee vision. You will be trained in histological methods to prepare samples for microCT imaging and the analysis of the tomographic data obtained with this method using Amira and Matlab software programs. In January 2016, samples of E. impirialis (in different states of light adaption) will be collected and prepared during a field trip to Barro Colorado Island in Panama, following which the samples will be imaged with synchrotron light at a tomography beamline at the Diamond Light Source in England. After imaging, you will analyze the tomographic data, and describe how this novel light adaptation mechanism influences the visual properties of orchid bee ocelli during light- and dark-adapted states.
Magnetic alignment in animals
Many invertebrates, but also vertebrates like deer, cows and foxes, have been shown to align their body axis along the Earth’s magnetic field when resting or feeding. Why they do this is currently not known, but it has been speculated that certain physiological processes work better when the animals are aligned along the magnetic field. It may also be an evolutionary advantage to always be oriented in space by having the body axis aligned along the magnetic field; an animals that suddenly has to flee from a predator will more likely find back, if it was oriented and knew in what direction it flew than an animal which was not oriented.
The aim of this project is to examine whether how common this phenomenon is, i.e., whether animals of diverse species here in Sweden also show this behaviour.
If you are interested in a Bachelor’s or Master’s project, don’t hesitate to contact me for more information.
Contact: Rachel Muheim
Lotta Persmark, Education Office
Lotta.Persmark [at] biol.lu.se
046-222 37 28
Jóhanna B. Jónsdóttir, Education Office
Johanna_B.Jonsdottir [at] biol.lu.se
046-222 73 15
Jan-Åke Nilsson, room E-C223
Jan-Ake.Nilsson [at] biol.lu.se
046-222 45 69
Specialization in Biology general
Caroline Isaksson, room E-C220
Caroline.Isaksson [at] biol.lu.se
046-222 17 80
Specialization in Animal Ecology
Dennis Hasselquist, room E-222
Dennis.Hasselquist [at] biol.lu.se
046-222 37 08
Specialization Aquatic Ecology
Per Carlsson, room E-C112
Per.Carlsson [at] biol.lu.se
046-222 84 35
Specialization in Conservation Biology
Ola Olsson, room E-C354
Ola.Olsson [at] biol.lu.se
046-222 37 74
Specialization in Plant Science
Stefan Andersson, room E-A322
Stefan.Andersson [at] biol.lu.se
046-222 44 08
Nordic Master's Programme in Biodiversity and Systematics (NABIS)
Telephone: +46 46-222 89 74
E-mail: Nils.Cronberg [at] biol.lu.se