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  PhD Scholarship Quantitative genetics of senescence in Seychelles warblers

   Faculty of Science and Engineering

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  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 the genomics of senescence. You will be supervised by Hannah Dugdale (RUG; and David S Richardson (UEA;

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


We all deteriorate with age –a process known as senescence– but individuals senesce differently, in terms of the age at which we start to deteriorate and the rate of decline. The underlying causes of these differences in senescence patterns remain poorly understood. Genetic variation and architecture is hypothesised to play a major role in determining individual senescence patterns. Quantitative genetics allows estimation of the genetic variation underlying senescence. Puzzling differences in the senescence of traits could be better understood by partitioning genetic variance across the genome, and estimating selection through multivariate analyses of covariances between traits. By then estimating selection on additive genetic variance underlying senescence we can elucidate micro-evolutionary processes. This will help clarify why some individuals are less able to buffer against senescence, perhaps, for example, due to their genetic makeup.

You will investigate the relative impact of environmental and genetic factors on senescence using the model Seychelles warbler system. Seychelles warblers are subject to variable environmental effects and show considerable differential senescence. We have detailed life-history data of over 2,000 birds, spanning more than 30 years. You will have access to this exceptional Seychelles warbler study population and the associated long-term dataset, genetic pedigree and whole genome data. Potential research questions are: 1) Is there a live-fast die-young trade off, with a negative genetic correlation between early-life fecundity and lifespan, and a positive correlation between age of first and last reproduction; 2) How does the additive genetic variation of traits that senesce change with age?; 3) What is the genetic architecture of senescence – is it polygenic, whereby the additive genetic variance of traits that senescence is proportional to the length of different genomic regions?; and, 4) Do genomic regions underpinning senescence covary with fitness?


We are looking for a candidate who:

• holds a master degree (or will graduate before appointment date) in Evolutionary Biology or a relevant field

• 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 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.


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:

The University of East Anglia offer a Cotutelle 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 (untaxed) stipend paid at the current RTP stipend rate for 2021 (£15,609 per annum) and indexed in future years. All International students entering study at UEA must have a Student visa which satisfies the minimum requirement financially and for English language, as laid out by the UK Visa and Immigration Department (see UKVI website for current details). It is important that the student understands their immigration status before applying.


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 (click on 'Apply' below on the advertisement on the university website to access the application form), see:

The University of Groningen is an equal opportunity employer that values diversity and inclusion. We have adopted an active policy to increase the number of female scientists across all disciplines of the university and published our Gender Equality Plan. Therefore, women are encouraged to apply. Our selection procedure follows the guidelines of the Recruitment code (NVP), and European Commission's European Code of Conduct for recruitment of researchers,


Deadline for application: 31 January 2022


For information you can contact:

·      Prof. Hannah Dugdale, [Email Address Removed]

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

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

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 About the Project