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Ecological population genomics of an Australian song-bird

Project Description

We are seeking applications from highly motivated and qualified candidates for a PhD at the Australian National University’s Division of Evolution and Ecology, within the Research School of Biology. Funding is available to Australian or New Zealand citizens or permanent residents.

High-resolution genomic data provide powerful opportunities to explore links between the evolutionary and ecological dynamics in natural populations. This PhD project would investigate population genetic structure in the superb fairy-wren, a highly promiscuous, cooperatively-breeding songbird, using high-density SNP data. An intensive long-term (30 year) study of a population of superb fairy-wrens has resulted in detailed lifetime records and genetic data for several thousand individuals. However ecological monitoring has also shown that the population has also declined markedly in size over the study period. , and the causes and genetic consequences of this decline are as yet unknown. The project will combine individual life-histories and family tree (pedigree) information with SNP genotypes and whole genome sequence data. The student can then explore temporal changes in genetic structure, in particular in relation to the declining population size; the effects of immigration, and changing levels of admixture; spatial genetic structure across the study population, and its implications for inbreeding avoidance – or anything else that you find interesting and would like to investigate.

The project will involve a combination of training in molecular techniques and statistical analysis of the long-term superb fairy-wren life-history data. Suitable applicants need to be highly motivated with strong academic and research backgrounds. Full training in all techniques will be provided, but background training in evolutionary ecology, genetics, bioinformatics and/or statistics is desirable.

The Kruuk group works on a range of different questions about the evolutionary ecology of wild animal populations. We are a friendly interactive group, aiming for great science in a supportive environment, with interesting people asking interesting questions. More details are here:, and a full list of publications is at
The Division of Ecology and Evolution at the Australian National University (ANU) ( provides an outstanding research environment with a world-class reputation. We work hard to provide excellent supervision and we take pride in providing an atmosphere that values intellectual rigour, inclusion, mentorship and fun. Graduate research students are well supported through internal funding, including for conference travel, and our research facilities are second to none. We have a thriving community of PhD students and Postdoctoral Fellows from around the world. Our graduates go on to productive careers in many areas of science and beyond.

The ANU campus is situated in the heart of Australia’s capital city, Canberra, which is ranked as the third best city in the world according to Lonely Planet (2018) and is Australia’s most liveable city (Life in Australia Report 2019). The ANU has an international reputation for research excellence and is ranked among the best universities in the world (QS World University Ranking 2019).

Funding Notes

Scholarships are only open to citizens / permanent residents of Australia and New Zealand. ANU scholarships are competitive, and cover all fees and ~$27K stipend. In order to be put forward, you will need very good undergraduate marks and a first class honours or Masters by research (or be expecting to gain one by the end of 2019) or equivalent research experience.

For expression of interest, please send Loeske Kruuk: a detailed CV; full academic transcripts; a brief description of your research interests and why this project; and names of two academic referees. Please do this as soon as possible.

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