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Functional morphology and masticatory biomechanics of British red squirrels.

Project Description

The introduction of the Eastern grey squirrel to the UK in the late nineteenth century has had a dramatic effect on the native population of red squirrels. In most places that grey squirrels have become established, they have replaced red squirrels, leaving a highly fragmented distribution across Great Britain with isolated populations in Scotland, northern England and Wales, and on offshore islands such as the Isle of Wight and Anglesey. It is well-established that populations isolated on islands or in other ways can undergo rapid morphological evolution and functional divergence, but it is yet to be tested whether such processes have occurred in red squirrels.

This PhD project will seek to shed light on the replacement of red squirrels by grey squirrels, and the impact of population fragmentation and isolation by quantifying cranial and mandibular morphology in the remaining population of UK red squirrels. Morphological variation will be analysed with geometric morphometrics, a landmark-based statistical shape analysis methodology. The biomechanics of feeding in the remaining red squirrel populations will be compared via biomechanical simulation methodologies such as finite element analysis.

This project would be ideal for a student with a background in anatomy, zoology, ecology or zooarchaeology. Prior experience with geometric morphometrics and/or biomechanical simulation would be a bonus, but is not essential as training will be provided during the course of the PhD. However, it is important that the student is competent in mathematics and data handling. The supervisory team includes expertise in functional morphology, biomechanics, imaging and ecology.

Principal supervisor: Dr Philip Cox (Hull York Medical School, University of York)
Co-supervisors: Professor Paul O’Higgins (Hull York Medical School, University of York) and Dr Andrew Kitchener (National Museums Scotland and University of Edinburgh).

This is a Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) position and in addition to research, the successful candidate will be expected to contribute up to 250 hours per annum of teaching support in relation to postgraduate and undergraduate teaching undertaken by CAHS. This will include the supervision of laboratory classes (in gross anatomy, virtual anthropology and evolutionary anatomy), day to day support for MSc students in relation to research projects, and general support to MBBS and MSc teaching and assessment as required. Such a wide portfolio will provide the student with a great deal of teaching experience, which will contribute significantly to the student’s employability post-PhD. As part of this position, there will also be the opportunity to gain a teaching qualification (York Learning and Teaching Award) if desired.

We do not expect the successful candidate to each be able to cover all areas of teaching and research in the first instance – training will be provided in areas in which they are unfamiliar. Additionally, training will be provided in relation to University teaching methods, management and delivery. The principal base for the successful candidate will be at the HYMS building, University of York campus. Teaching duties may occasionally involve physical presence at the HYMS University of Hull campus.

Please contact Dr Philip Cox () to discuss prior to submitting your application.

The successful candidate will be expected to hold a first class honours degree or an upper second in a relevant subject area and, ideally, a Master’s degree in a relevant topic with honours or distinction. please submit a CV, and personal statement outlining your career, experience, skills and knowledge relevant to this position (max 1000 words). Some experience in the delivery of academic or practical content to small groups would be preferred.

All applications MUST BE submitted to the HYMS Postgraduate Centre via the online application method:

Select ‘PhD in Human Sciences’ start date of ‘2020 October, full-time’.

Deadline is Monday 16th March 2020 at 23h59.

Please quote “HYMS - Functional morphology and masticatory biomechanics of British red squirrels” when applying. In order for the panel to get a sense of your academic background, commitment and interest, you are required to complete the application form in full and provide a summary of the research proposal/outline of academic interests. Research proposals and personal statements may be used in selecting applicants for interview.

Please note that this is a student scholarship. If you will be employed by HYMS (e.g. on a fixed or short term contract) for the duration of your study, you will not be eligible to receive the student scholarship as a member of HYMS staff.

Funding Notes

A stipend at the Research Council UK rate (£15,009 for 2019-20, to be confirmed for 2020-21) and a fee waiver at the Home/EU rate will be provided.

This competition is open to UK and EU graduates or graduates from overseas. If a successful candidate is not eligible to pay Home/EU fees, they will need to fund the difference in tuition fees between the prevailing Home/EU and Overseas fees.

Start Date
1st October 2020

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