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Evolutionary origins of adaptive traits in grasses*

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

Project Description

During evolution, grasses acquired a variety of functional traits that allowed them to colonize almost all environments around the globe, and rank amongst the most productive crops, weeds, and invasive species. These traits originate from random mutations in the genome, which were repeatedly filtered by natural selection. How did these microevolutionary processes lead over time to major ecological innovations of impressive complexity? We address this question using C4 photosynthesis as a study system. This complex trait results from multiple anatomical and biochemical components that act in concert to boost productivity in tropical conditions. How each of these can be selected for in the absence of the others remains unknown.

PhD projects addressing the origins of complex adaptive traits in plants can combine the following approaches; comparative genomics, population genomics, phylogenetics, comparative anatomy, ecology. The student will collaborate with other members of the research group, who apply different methods to address the same big evolutionary questions. Depending on the project specifics, the research can involve bioinformatics, molecular biology, and/or experimental approaches

Science Graduate School
As a PhD student in one of the science departments at the University of Sheffield, you’ll be part of the Science Graduate School. You’ll get access to training opportunities designed to support your career development by helping you gain professional skills that are essential in all areas of science. You’ll be able to learn how to recognise good research and research behaviour, improve your communication abilities and experience the breadth of technologies that are used in academia, industry and many related careers. Visit to learn more.

Funding Notes

The applicant will need to find funding to cover tuition fees and living expenses

The applicant should have, or expect to gain at least an upper second class degree, or equivalent overseas qualification, in a relevant subject

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