University of Sussex - PhD Biology

Life Sciences PhD Biology: John Maynard Smith Studentship 2023 (2022)

A Maynard Smith PhD studentship (42 months) is available from March 2023 under the supervision of Dr Wiebke Schuett (main supervisor) and Prof Jeremy Niven (co-supervisor) at the Department of Evolution, Behaviour and Environment, School of Life Sciences, University of Sussex.

What you get

The PhD position is fully funded by a Maynard Smith PhD studentship from the School of Life Sciences, University of Sussex. Funding includes full home tuition fees and a stipend at UKRI rates for 3.5 years. Applicants with overseas fee status will need to fund the difference between Home and International tuition fees (see

Type of award

Postgraduate Research

PhD project

Understanding the impact of environmental change on insect behaviour, metabolism and life history 

Environmental change has vast consequences for individuals, populations, species and communities. Behaviour is often the first response to such change. So, understanding individuals’ behavioural responses to environmental change is important for identifying which individuals are likely to persist in or disappear from altered habitats. Individuals of many species differ consistently in their behaviour (i.e. show ‘personality differences’). Such personality differences are often linked closely to life history, physiological and/or morphological traits, forming suits of correlated traits known as pace-of-life syndromes (POLS). Unravelling how environmental conditions influence POLS is important for understanding responses to and consequences of environmental change. 

We are offering a fully-funded PhD studentship in this research area. We offer the opportunity to work on a woodland species of large UK ground beetle and to conduct experimental work in the field, in enclosures and in the laboratory. The student will conduct experiments on individuals from forest cores and edges (edges are habitat boundaries with altered environmental conditions, usually through land-use change). Topics that the successful candidate could pursue within this framework include the influence of environmental conditions or environmental change (using environmental gradients from forest cores to edges) on behaviour, movement patterns, habitat use and other pace-of life traits (metabolism, life-history, and morphology), as well as their (co)variance. This might involve the evolution of personality differences and decision-making under unpredictable environmental conditions, causes and consequences of POLS and impacts of environmental conditions on individuals, populations and communities.


Candidates must have or expect to obtain a minimum 2:1 degree in biology or an allied science such as ecology. An MSc degree will be advantageous. We expect a highly motivated, talented, well-organised and meticulous candidate with strong quantitative skills. The candidate will have a background and demonstrable interest in one or more of behavioural ecology, insect physiology, evolution and/or ecology. Previous experience in collecting data in the field, working with insects, behavioural observations, physiological analyses, statistical modelling (preferentially in R) is advantageous. Candidates for whom English is not their first language will require an IELTS score of 6.5 overall, with not less than 6.0 in any section. The successful candidate will start the PhD between March and May 2023.


18 April 2022 23:45

How to apply

Please submit a formal application using our online application system at, including a cover letter (headed with project title), a short potential project outline (ca. 300-500 words), CV (max 2 pages), BSc/MSc degree transcripts and certificates, IELTS certificate (if non-UK) and two academic references.

On the application system select Programme of Study – PhD Biology, and January or May 2023 entry date. Please ensure you state the project title under funding and include the supervisor’s name where required.


Contact us

For enquiries about the application process, contact Emma Chorley:

For enquiries about the project, contact Wiebke Schuett:


At level(s):
PG (research)

Application deadline:
18 April 2022 23:45 (GMT)
the deadline has now expired


The award is available to people from these specific countries: