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An evolutionary systems approach to understand visual adaptations in amphibians


   Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS)

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  Dr C Creevey  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

Supervisors: Dr. Chris Creevey ([Email Address Removed]), Dr. Karen Siu Ting (IBERS), Dr. Mary O’Connell (Leeds University), Dr. Davide Pisani (Bristol University) and Dr. Mark Wilkinson (Natural History Museum, London).

Arguably the most important biological innovations in the evolution of animals have been their wide range of sensory receptors, allowing perception of the environment they inhabit. These receptors, like those found in the visual system, have evolved over millions of years and are optimised in ways that we are only beginning to appreciate. For instance, the adaptations that have occurred in the visual systems for daylight and night vision, and perception of colour at night (as has been found in some nocturnal mammals and bats) still remain a mystery in many groups of vertebrates. Furthering our understanding requires that we not only look forward with novel technological advances, but also that we look backwards at the evolutionary processes that have been so important in their development.

Amphibians are a model group for studying these questions, and multiple times have independently developed successful adaptations in both nocturnal and diurnal species (i.e. the size of eyes, photoreceptor cells and associated visual pigments). This is particularly important in frogs, where visual cues are not only used for catching prey and avoiding predators, but also attracting the opposite sex. As the amphibians represent the most ancestral group of the tetrapod vertebrates, understanding the genetic underpinnings of the evolutionary adaptations in their senses will further our understanding of how novel biological innovations arise.

This Ph.D. project will utilise the expertise from Aberystywth University, Leeds University, Bristol University and the Natural History Museum to tackle the problem of nocturnal versus diurnal adapted visual systems. The successful candidate will be registered in Aberystywth University, and will be expected to spend time at each of the partner institutions during the project. The successful candidate will benefit from the novel data collected by both IBERS researchers and collaborators and will gain world-class expertise in genomics, evolution and bioinformatics. They will be a member of the ecological and evolutionary genomics lab (http://www.creeveylab.org) under the direct supervision of Dr. Chris Creevey (http://www.aber.ac.uk/en/ibers/staff/chc30/) in IBERS.

Funding Notes

Fully funded 3-year PhD scholarship pays UK/EU university tuition fees (currently £4,052pa) stipend of £14,057 per year. Applicants should hold, or expect to obtain, a minimum of a first or good upper-second class honours degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject (e.g. Molecular/evolutionary Biology, Bioinformatics or Computer Science). Contact lead supervisor Dr. Chris Creevey ([Email Address Removed]) to discuss the project, or for general queries IBERS Postgraduate Co-ordinator Michelle Allen ([Email Address Removed]). Information on IBERS see http://www.aber.ac.uk/en/ibers/ and for how to apply see http://www.aber.ac.uk/en/postgrad/howtoapply/ - please enter the lead supervisor name under “An evolutionary systems approach to understand visual adaptations in amphibians”.

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