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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.

Proposals in:

 

General Biology

Animal ecology

Aquatic ecology

Chemical ecology

Conservation biology

Molecular Ecology

Plant Science

Sensory Biology

Theoretical Ecology

 

General Biology

 

Research on Dogs,

Mammalian Rhinarium Group
The Mammalian Rhinarium Group investigates the sensory abilities of dogs. We focus on the cold nose-tip, the rhinarium, and have found an infrared (IR) sense that enables dogs to detect animals and humans by their body heat radiation without any other sensory cue.

 

Dogs have to invest metabolic energy for their IR sense to work. Sick, exhausted, and tired dogs are blind to IR radiation, such that meaningful experiments can only be done with healthy, alert, and comfortable dogs willing to co­oper­ate. A good relation to the animals and respect for their needs are imperative in our work.

We do a variety of behavioral experiments in the lab, in a riding hall, and outdoors. We collaborate with local zoos (Skåne’s, Öland’s, and Ystad djurpark) for comparative studies. The mechanism of nose cooling is studied in collaboration with LTH. Morphological work on various skin types in various mammalian species aims at understanding how form is related to function. In molecular studies, we want to reveal the mechanisms behind the high sensitivity to skin warming of dogs and the amazing cold tolerance of many mammals.

There are projects of various sizes (project/internship, bachelor, master) that can start at any time.     Mammalian Rhinarium Group

Contact:
Ronald Kröger
Biology Building B, room 336
ronald.kroger [at] biol.lu.se
046-2220596, 0725718322

 

 

Animal Ecology

Female-limited X-chromosome evolution

Fruit flies Drosophila melanogaster

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.

Please contact Jessica Abbott and/or Katrine Lund-Hansen if you are interested in this proposal.

  • 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.

    Please contact Emily Baird or Gavin Taylor for more information.

    Bee eyes and optical neuropils.
     

    Aquatic Ecology

     

    Utveckling av en ”sälsäker” pinger som minskar bifångst av tumlare, Examensarbete för SLU Aqua

     

    I haven runt Sverige lever tre tumlarpopulationer: Nordsjöpopulationen, Bälthavspopulationen samt Östersjöpopulationen. Populationerna anses enligt Artdatabanken vara antingen akut hotade (Östersjöpopulationen) eller sårbara. Bifångsten av tumlare i nät har identifierats som det största hotet mot populationen och för att bevara våra populationer och uppfylla miljökvalitetsmålen så behöver vi också ta reda på hur stora bifångsterna är i våra svenska vatten men också minska våra bifångster av tumlare i vissa områden.

    Ett sätt att minska bifångster av tumlare i garn är att använda pingers, även kallade tumlarskrämmor. Pingers sätts på garnen, de sänder ut signaler som tumlare hör och kräms bort eller uppmärksammar garnen och fastnar därmed inte i dem.

    Detta projekt involverar utveckling och utprovning av en pinger som inte sälar hör men som ändå minskar bifångster av tumlare. De pingers som idag finns på marknaden minskar bifångster av tumlare men sälar kan höra dem. Därmed kan sälarna använda pingerljudet som en matklocka vilket ökar konflikten mellan säl och fiske. Utvecklingen av en sådan pinger sker i flera steg.  Detta projekt är fortsättningen av ett projket som pågått i två år. Under 2015 testade vi vilka frekvenser (inom det frekvensspektrat som pingers har) som sälarna hör och vilka de inte hör. Detta har gjorts genom beteendestudier där sälarna utsetts för olika frekvenser av ljud och deras reaktioner eller icke reaktioner noteras och analyseras.

    Under 2016 togs, med hjälp av pingertillverkare, det fram en hanterbar prototyp av pingern som sände ut de ljudfrekvenser vi kommit fram till att sälar inte hör. Denna prototyp testades i två områden med hög tumlarnärvaro. Pingern var av under 60 timmar och därefter på under 60 timmar. Cpods placerades ut i närheten av pingern. Tumlar närvaron i området registreras. Preliminära resultat visade att tumlarnärvaron minskade signifikant när pingern var på.

    Det sista steget i utvecklingen av en pinger som inte sälarna hör är att testa hur de nyutvecklade pingrarna fungerar i ett kommersiellt fiske vilket vi påbörjar under 2017. Syftet med studien är att undersöka om den nyutvecklade pingern minskar bifångsten av tumlare samt om närvaron av tumlare intill garn med pingers minskar.  Två torskfiskare i Öresund kommer att ha garn utrustade med pingers samt garn utan pingers. I anslutning till garnen, både de med och de utan pingers, kommer vi att placera C-pods som registrerar närvaron av tumlare. Fångst, bifångst och ansträngning rapporteras av fiskarena. Data samlas in kontinuerligt av både fiskare och student för att därefter analyseras och sammanställas.

    Examensarbetet innebär kontinuerliga kontakter med fiskare, tillfälliga fältresor till södra Sverige samt hantering och analys av dat

Handledare: Sara Königson, Kustlaboratoriet, Turistgatan 5, 423 30 Lysekil

Mail: sara.konigson [at] slu.se

Tel:0702215915

 

Chemical Ecology

 

Conservation Biology

 

Why are the barn swallows doing so well?

Background

Farmland birds are declining rapidly in numbers all over Europe. Suggested reasons for these declines are farmland intensification and to a smaller extent farmland abandonment. In contrast to other farmland birds, the barn swallow (Hirundo rustica) has recent years increased in Sweden. Why is this?

The only element of the “traditional” small-scale animal husbandry increasing in Sweden is horse keeping. A significant correlation between barn swallow trends and horse trends divided on county has been shown, although this is based on only two national horse surveys with six years in between. This project would look further into the link between horse keeping and barn swallow trends, both using field surveying on farms and monitoring data from the Swedish Bird Survey and the Swedish Board of Agriculture. It would also be relevant to look at other farmland birds and other sorts of animal husbandry. Why doesn’t the increasing numbers of horses seem to benefit other farmland bird species?

If the connection between horses and barn swallow trends is confirmed, it will be a unique and valuable contribution to the research fields of farmland bird ecology and conservation biology.

Methods

The project is quite flexible and it is expected that you as a student plan the work yourself, although along with supervision; especially regarding survey planning and more advanced statistics. There is a possibility to make field surveys on farms that were surveyed in 2012 within another project, which would give a temporal aspect to the field surveying part of the project as well. As you would be in contact with a lot of Swedish farmers it is desirable that you speak Swedish. Skills in statistics or a desire to learn will be needed, as much of the project will be based on analyses of large datasets.

Study sites

Skåne/Scania, or anywhere in Sweden you fancy and can reach easily.

Contact

Johanna Yourstone, johanna.yourstone [at] biol.lu.se

Åke Lindström, ake.lindstrom [at] biol.lu.se

Henrik Smith, henrik.smith [at] biol.lu.se

 

Investigation of maize as a potential late-season pollen source for pollinators

Agricultural intensification has led to the homogenization of the landscape and the

disappearance of diverse habitats with rich flower resources that are important for pollinating insects. The main insect pollinators are bees. Due to their foraging behaviour, bees are exposed to many agricultural practices that are likely to influence their abundance and/or diversity. One change in agricultural practice is the current increase of maize as a crop in the agricultural landscape. Although maize is a wind pollinated crop, a previous Master’s project demonstrated that a diverse group of bees occurs in the maize fields. The current Master’s thesis proposal is to build on this study by capturing bees for pollen basket analysis in maize fields. This project is both field- and lab-based. Participation in the field work with capturing bees is combined with microscopic pollen analysis on collected material. This project can also include landscape analysis with GIS to evaluate the contribution of other pollen sources in the landscape.

Study site: maize fields in Scania

Field work: mid July - mid August

Contact:  Tina D’Hertefeldt

 

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.

Please contact Martin Green or Åke Lindström if you are interested.

 

 

The role of native bees in pollination services in southern India

In this project we will evaluate the value of pollination by wild and domesticated bees in the Western Ghats landscape, southern India. Wild pollinators are threatened by habitat fragmentation and land-use intensification, putting their pollination services at risk. In the Western Ghats area, a UNESCO World Heritage Site recognized as a biodiversity hotspot, there are over 100 wild bee species. This master thesis will evaluate aspects of how landscape structure differentially affect these wild species, e.g. in relation to their functional traits such as mobility, the consequences on their fitness of variation in landscape structure and their economic value for pollination. To this end, the master thesis project can concern everything from detailed behavioural studies to large-scale landscape studies, that contribute to understanding the link landscape structure -> pollinator dynamics -> plant pollination. The details of the project will be worked out together with the supervisors in Lund and India.

Contact persons: Henrik Smith, henrik.smith [at] biol.lu.se +46-46-2229379; Almut Kelber, Almut.kelber [at] biol.lu.se, +46 46 2223454

 

 

Molecular Ecology

 

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).

Further reading:

Supervisors:
Lars Råberg (lars.raberg [at] biol.lu.se)
Neus Latorre Margalef (nlatorre [at] uga.edu)

 

Plant Science

 

Sensory Biology

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.

Please contact Emily Baird or Gavin Taylor for more information.

Euglossa imperialis ocelli

 

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

 

Theoretical Ecology

Page Manager:

Study advisor

Lotta Persmark, Education Office
Lotta.Persmark [at] biol.lu.se
046-222 37 28

Administrator

Jóhanna B. Jónsdóttir, Education Office
Johanna_B.Jonsdottir [at] biol.lu.se
046-222 73 15

Coordinators

Main coordinator

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)

Nils Cronberg
Associate Professor
Biodiversity

Telephone: +46 46-222 89 74
E-mail: Nils.Cronberg [at] biol.lu.se