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Estimating the dispersal capacity of Scottish blue mussel: From hydrodynamic modelling to genetic population structures

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Thursday, March 28, 2019
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

This PhD project will investigate fundamental questions regarding the ecology, conservation and commercial production of blue mussel (Mytilus spp). Intertidal and subtidal mussel beds are amongst the 81 features identified by the Scottish Government as priority marine features, and ranked amongst the most vulnerable. They are also the source of the spat (juveniles) for the economically and socially important mussel aquaculture industry. This industry supports over 1000 full time jobs in Scotland and has a value in excess of £50M. Tracing and understanding the source of seed mussels is both a national and international problem and the most significant challenge for the expanding industry. However, the controlling factors for irregular spat fall are poorly understood. Indeed, both the industry and conservation efforts are hampered by a lack of knowledge around the sources and sinks of larvae and spat. This project aims to develop tools to identify the sources of spat to farmed and wild populations using a highly innovative combination of hydrodynamic modelling and next generation genetic analysis.

More specifically

• The 1st objective will be locating broodstock populations most likely to be generating the collected seed at each specific site. We will do this by running an established high-resolution hydrodynamic model (FVCOM combined with WRF meteorological model) to simulate spat dispersal in the locality of each site. The most probable locations holding mussel broodstock will be identified, and their presence will be verified in situ.
• The 2nd objective will be to sequence the genome (ddRAD sequencing) of the individuals from all populations to identify a panel of genetic markers (SNPs and/or Microsatellites) able to unpick genetic differences between locations.
• The newly developed markers panel will then finally be used to establish genetic connectivity between broodstock and offspring in each of the selected locations, revealing the source of commercially important mussel seed.

As well as the two main supervisors (Dr Stefano Carboni and Dr Tom Adams), the student will be supported by Dr Michael Bekaert and Dr Adam Hughes. The student will be primarily based at the University of Stirling, Institute of Aquaculture, and will be expected to travel the Scottish West coast for sampling activities and spend extended periods of time at the Scottish Association for Marine Science in Oban.

Academic and soft skills

The successful candidate will hold an MSc or first class honours degree in relevant disciplines (E.g. Marine Biology; Environmental Sciences; Quantitative Ecology; Oceanography; Molecular Biology) and possess background knowledge or previous experience in Hydrodynamic Modelling and/or Molecular Biology and/or Bioinformatics. Possess a driving licence valid in the UK. Furthermore, the candidate will be able to operate in a multidisciplinary context, have an inquisitive mind and be an excellent problem solver.

Eligibility Criteria

SUPER DTP PhD studentships are open to applicants with Home (UK) and EU, who meet the residency requirements as outlined in UKRI’s Terms and Conditions of Research Council Training Grants.

Candidates who do not fulfil the residency criteria are still invited to apply as they can be eligible for a fees-only award (which covers fees and research costs) and additional options could be discussed on a case by case basis.

Applicants should have, or be studying for a postgraduate Master’s degree or a first class honours degree.

How to Apply

To apply, send a covering letter and up-to-date CV to . Deadline for application is the 5th of April 2019. Shortlisted candidates will be interviewed in Stirling within two weeks. Candidates who are unable to travel may be interviewed by Skype, VC or telephone.

If you are selected for an award, you will be expected to start on 30th September 2019 and attend a SUPER DTP induction event in Glasgow on 1st October 2019.

If you have an academic query, please contact the Lead Supervisor: Dr Stefano Carboni ()

Funding Notes

The 3½ year studentship covers:
• Tuition fees each year;
• A maintenance grant;
• Funding for research training;
• Part-time study is an option, with a minimum of 50% of full-time effort being required.


T.P. Adams, D. Aleynik and M.T. Burrows (2014) Larval dispersal of intertidal organisms and the influence of coastline geography. Ecography 37: 698–710, 2014 doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0587.2013.00259.x

T.P. Adams, D.Aleynik, K.D. Black (2016) Temporal variability in sea lice population connectivity and implications for regional management protocols. AQUACULTURE ENVIRONMENT INTERACTIONS Vol. 8: 585–596. doi: 10.3354/aei00203

B.K. Peterson, J.N. Weber, E.H. Kay, H.S. Fisher, H.E. Hoekstra (2012) Double Digest RADseq: An Inexpensive Method for De Novo SNP Discovery and Genotyping in Model and Non-Model Species. PLoS ONE 7(5): e37135. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0037135

J. Larsson, E.E. Lind, H. Corell, M. Grahn, K. Smolarz, M. Lonn (2017) Regional genetic differentiation in the blue mussel from the Baltic Sea area. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 195: 98-109 doi:10.1016/j.ecss.2016.06.016

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