Don't miss our weekly PhD newsletter | Sign up now Don't miss our weekly PhD newsletter | Sign up now

  PhD Scholarship Inbreeding, mitochondrial performance and senescence in birds

   Faculty of Science and Engineering

This project is no longer listed on and may not be available.

Click here to search for PhD studentship opportunities
  Prof HD Dugdale  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

 Scholarship opportunities

We are looking for a student interested in researching inbreeding effects on senescence and physiological mechanisms of senescence. You will be supervised by Hannah Dugdale (RUG;, Simon Griffith (MQ;, and David S Richardson (University of East Anglia, UK,

This is a double degree at RUG and MQ. For the first two-years you will be based at RUG and embedded in the Seychelles Warbler Project ( You will conduct fieldwork in the Seychelles for a minimum of two seasons (up to 3 months per season), with a COVID-19 contingency plan. For the second two-years you will be based in Australia on the MQ campus. You will be part of a team of PhD students, post-docs, and staff who are using long-term individual-based datasets of natural and captive populations to improve understanding of life-history evolution.

You will conduct independent and original scientific research, report results via peer-reviewed publications, conference presentations, and ultimately a PhD thesis. Being part of a cutting-edge research programme, you will receive training in the form of hands-on instruction, advanced courses, summer/winter schools, as well as complementary workshops on generic research and transferable skills.


One of the most profound challenges we all face is our deterioration with age - a process known as senescence. Individuals clearly senesce differently, in both the age they start to deteriorate and the rate of their decline. However, the underlying causes of these differences in senescence patterns remain poorly understood. Inbreeding increases the proportion of the genome that is identical by descent, reducing genetic heterozygosity and increasing the expression of deleterious recessive alleles, thus reducing fitness. Genomic markers provide power to estimate heterozygosity and test the prediction that inbreeding depression increases with age. Additionally, improved understanding of the cellular physiology of senescence will highlight potential mechanisms of senescence. This will help clarify why some individuals are less able to buffer against senescence, perhaps, for example, due to their genetic makeup or mitochondrial performance.

In the Netherlands, you will have the long-term Seychelles warbler dataset available to address this question. Seychelles warblers are cooperative breeders and we have detailed life-history data of over 2,000 birds, spanning more than 30 years. High variance in both senescence and inbreeding occurs in the population. Over 450 birds in our dataset are inbred, and inbreeding effects accumulate over life and impact strongly on survival. Potential research questions are how genome-wide heterozygosity affects senescence, and whether heterozygosity fitness correlations arise due to locus specific or genome-wide effects. In Australia, you will work on the cellular physiology of senescence using a captive population of long-tailed finches. In this captive population we have a good pedigree with known demography and use approaches to measure mitochondrial performance non-invasively. This component will provide insight into potential underlying mechanisms of organismal senescence. The overall project will improve our understanding of how and why some individuals live longer, healthier lives, and provide important insights into ways of mitigating senescence.


We are looking for a candidate who:

• holds a (research) master degree (or will graduate before appointment date) with distinction (see: in a relevant field, such as Evolutionary Biology

• is curiosity driven and passionate about fundamental research in the context of genomics and senescence

• has previous experience of bird ringing and conducting fieldwork in harsh environments (training will be provided)

• has laboratory skills, such as in physiological data (training will be provided)

• has strong quantitative skills in statistics and bioinformatics (training will be provided)

• has experience in extracting and analysing data from databases (e.g. Access) or large datasets (training will be provided)

• is a team player, willing to work with a diverse group of researchers and technicians, and can also work independently

• has strong communication skills and is motivated to disseminate results to both scientific peers and a broad audience

• is proficient in the English language (;

• is strongly motivated to obtain a PhD degree.


We offer 1 full scholarship for a PhD project on the effect of inbreeding on senescence using long-term datasets of wild Seychelles warblers and physiological senescence in captive long-tailed finches. This is a double-degree/cotutelle position at the University of Groningen, the Netherlands, and Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia.


The position is offered within the RUG PhD Scholarship Programme. This programme is issued by the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture, and Science (OCW) within the framework of the national PhD Scholarship Programme. The double-degree/cotutelle PhD scholarship student will receive a scholarship (stipend) of € 2,249 per month (gross) from the University of Groningen for the first two years of the 4-year PhD. This amount is adjusted annually on the basis of the CBS consumer price index. PhD scholarship students are not employed by the university. PhD scholarship students therefore have different rights, obligations, and a different income than employed PhD candidates. Please consider the terms and conditions of the PhD Scholarship Programme on the following website:

Macquarie University offer a Cotutelle iMQRES Scholarship, for the last two-years of the 4-year PhD. The Cotutelle scholarship comprises the equivalent of a full-fees award and stipend for the normal full-fee paying period up to 2 years. Scholarship holders will be expected to have submitted their thesis for examination by the end of that period. The scholarships will comprise a full-fees awards and a stipend paid at the current RTP stipend rate for 2021 (AUD 28,597 per annum) and indexed in future years.


You can upload your complete application, in English until 30 January 11:59 pm / before 31 January 2022 Dutch local time (CET). Combine all required documents in a single PDF file and upload it via the online application form as your letter of motivation, see:


Deadline for application: 31 January 2022

For information you can contact:

·      Prof. Hannah Dugdale, [Email Address Removed]

·      Prof. Simon Griffith, [Email Address Removed]

·      Prof. David S Richardson, [Email Address Removed]

Please do not use the e-mail address(es) above for applications.

Biological Sciences (4)

 About the Project