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Understanding the genetic basis of adaptive phenotypic variation and ultimately fitness is a major aim of evolutionary biological research, as it helps us understand the origins of biodiversity and the ability of species to adapt to environmental changes. Rapid advances in genomics have enabled us to detect genetic signatures of selection related to local adaptation in a wide range of species but linking such genetic changes to the phenotypes under selection and directly to fitness remains challenging.
This project aims to integrate genomics with experimental approaches and quantitative genetics to directly map the genetic basis of local adaptation and fitness in ecologically relevant non-model systems. Asellus aquaticus, the two-spotted water louse, is an important keystone species in freshwater ecosystems that is emerging as a new model for eco-evolutionary studies. A. aquaticus is widely distributed across Europe and occupies diverse habitats, with individuals from different habitats showing consistent adaptive differences in colouration, morphology, and behaviour These well-documented phenotypic differences that have rapidly and repeatedly evolved across populations, the relatively short generation time, and possibility for experimental manipulation make A. aquaticus an excellent study system to investigate the genetic basis of local adaptation, and directly link the genotype, phenotype and fitness.
To address the outlined question, the overarching project integrates different approaches, that are independent but highly integrative. Depending on the candidates’ interests, the project can focus either on the genomic, experimental and/or quantitative genetic aspects (or a combination thereof). Ideas for comprehensive work packages for this project are outlined below.
1) Identify the phenotypic and population genomic responses of adaptation to diverse habitats in A. aquaticus across multiple freshwater systems, using phenotyping and low-coverage whole-genome sequencing of wild-caught individuals.
2) Investigate the genetic architecture of local adaptation and fitness by rearing individuals from different habitats and reciprocal F1 and F2 hybrid crosses under diverse semi-natural conditions in the lab. These crosses could be used for quantitative genetic analyses. Sequencing of F2 hybrid individuals would also offer the possibility to map genomic regions associated with divergent phenotypic traits.
3) Identify genetic and phenotypic variation directly related to fitness (e.g., survival) under different environmental conditions by performing mesocosm experiments with F2 hybrids.
Skills and training:
This project will provide wide ranging training from fieldwork to experimental design, quantitative (e.g., phenotypic analyses) and molecular approaches (e.g. DNA extraction, next generation sequencing), and analytical and bioinformatic skills (e.g., quantitative genetics, genomic analyses). The student will also gain extensive skills in experimental design and project planning by providing substantial input for the direction of the project under the guidance of the supervisors.
Find more details in the full advertisement.
Informal inquiries about the project are welcome.