Sir Kenneth Mather Memorial Prize 2015/16 – Jessica King

Jessica King (University of Edinburgh)

I am very thankful to The Genetics Society for honouring me with this award, to the MSc coordinator Professor Andrew Leigh-Brown for the nomination and Dr Jarrod Hadfield for the opportunity and supervision.

The title of my MSc thesis is “The evolution of phenotypic plasticity in a spatiotemporally fluctuating environment”. We found that, when there is a cost of plasticity, temporal variation in the environment decreases genetic differentiation between subpopulations, even in the absence of gene flow.

I had already been introduced to phenotypic  plasticity in an empirical context, so I thought it would be interesting to develop a thesis on the same topic but from a different viewpoint. When my supervisor Jarrod Hadfield granted me the opportunity of developing a theoretical research project on the topic, I decided to take it. It was a tough and ambitious task, but turned out to be very rewarding. In fact, I had never done theoretical work before and now I can’t get enough of it!

I am now a research assistant modelling the conditions for Wolbachia invasion within mosquito populations, and the resulting impact on human disease incidence (e.g. dengue).