Sperm biology and evolution (thesis/internship projects)

Sperm biology and evolution (thesis/internship projects)

Animal Ecology

Contact Person:

Droevendaalsesteeg 10
6708 PB Wageningen

Sperm are critical to successful fertilisation in sexually reproducing animals. The function of sperm – to find and fertilise ova – is universal throughout the animal kingdom, yet the sperm cell is the most morphologically diverse cell type known. This diversity has intrigued sperm biologists for decades and has generated numerous questions. For instance, what factors generate this morphological diversity? What is the molecular basis of sperm phenotypic variation? What are the consequences of morphological variation for sperm function?

There are a broad range of project opportunities available to students. Most immediately, these include projects that take advantage of previously collected samples and data that can be analysed to answer a range of research questions and topics, such as:

  • Does artificial light at night (ALAN) impact sperm quality?
  • Does sperm structure predict sperm function: a meta-analysis
  • What microbes are present in the ejaculates of male birds?

There may also be opportunities to combine such a project with field work and sample collection at a later date (depending upon the duration and timing of the project).

During the breeding season (approx. April-June), projects focused on questions related to sperm biology and evolution or avian reproductive biology and behaviour are available on a range of questions and topics, such as:

  • Sperm morphological diversity in Australian finches
  • Sperm DNA damage and fertility in house sparrows
  • Methodological issues in the measurement of sperm DNA damage and morphology

Other project ideas can be developed in collaboration with the PI. Thus, we encourage anyone interested in the topics of sexual selection, sperm competition, and sperm biology to get in contact to discuss opportunities. Birds are our primary study system (with some spiders thrown in for fun), but we are happy to discuss possibilities with other taxa.