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Genomic and environmental determinants of individual fitness in the house sparrow

   School of Biosciences

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  Prof T A Burke, Prof J Slate, Dr M J P Simons  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

Sheffield United Kingdom Bioinformatics Ecology Evolution Genetics Neuroscience Reproductive Biology Zoology

About the Project

We have been studying the life history of the house sparrow on Lundy Island since the 1990s. This isolated population established naturally by immigration in the 1970s. We supplemented the population with birds introduced from the mainland in 2000 and occasional, known immigrants arrive naturally every few years. Immigration is expected to compensate for the deleterious effects of the inbreeding inevitable in a small population like the one on Lundy, and outbred immigrants are expected to have a selective advantage. In this study we will use whole-genome sequencing and pedigree-based analyses of fitness to:

·     Track the fates of immigrant genomes into the population

·     Understand the contribution of inbreeding to fitness

·     Map the genomic determinants of fitness of individuals

·     Incorporate genomic, parental and environmental effects into predictions of individual fitness

The study will exploit >20 years of existing genetic (pedigree), social and environmental data on an entire population, existing genomic data for resident and introduced birds, and generate large-scale low-coverage whole-genome data for hundreds of resident birds for which we have complete life histories. A high-quality genome is available and the study will additionally include the generation of long-read sequence data for a sample of individuals to test for the presence of inversions, which might contribute significantly to individual fitness.

The project will involve fieldwork on Lundy Island, genomic techniques in the laboratory, and bioinformatic and statistical data analysis. The student will join the Lundy Sparrow Project, which is a collaboration between Sheffield and Imperial College; the student will therefore interact and collaborate closely with the wider team based at each location. Applicants should have good undergraduate or masters qualifications in a biological subject with a significant component of evolution, ecology and/or genetics. Training in all the required methods will be provided. Applicants should have a keen interest in learning field and laboratory skills, including bioinformatics, statistics, population genetics, and evolutionary theory. Your application (via should include an attached statement explaining why you want to undertake this Ph.D. project.

Funding Notes

The preferred start date is 1 January 2022.
Fully funded by the University of Sheffield for 3.5 years. The studentship covers: (i) a tax-free stipend at the standard Research Council rate (£15,609 per annum for 2020–21), (ii) research costs, and (iii) tuition fees at the UK rate. The studentship is available to UK students who meet the UK residency requirements.
Selection process: Shortlisting and interviews (undertaken remotely) will take place as soon as possible after the closing date.
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