R(D)SVS: Conservation genomics of the UK red squirrel to support habitat management and species restoration

   College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine

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  Dr Rob Ogden, Dr Emily Humble, Dr Melissa Marr  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

The UK red squirrel population has declined over the past century due to a combination of habitat loss, invasive species competition and associated disease outbreaks. Scotland represents the last region where large, healthy populations exist, with current management focusing on red squirrel stronghold areas, while plans for species restoration in England are also underway.

Our conservation science research group has generated extensive whole genome sequence data representing the entire Scottish distribution and parts of England, with initial analysis revealing important insights into population structure and genetic diversity.

The current PhD opportunity will expand the geographic coverage of genomic data and conduct deeper analysis of genetic variation found between red squirrel populations across the UK. The research outputs will inform forestry management, and future translocation strategies to avoid long-term inbreeding risks in Scotland and England.

Established collaborations with the Scottish red squirrel disease surveillance programme and functional geneticists at Edinburgh, along with comparative biologists at the National Museums Scotland and University College London, will also enable an exploration of associations between genetic variation, morphology and disease susceptibility.

Based at the University of Edinburgh’s vet school and Roslin Institute, this studentship provides the opportunity to develop cutting-edge genomic analysis skills, while learning how to interpret and apply the resulting data to immediate wildlife management questions. The successful student will join an established, multi-disciplinary group and would be supported by an expert supervisory team with a proven track-record for developing early-career conservation genetics researchers.

Research questions

1. How can patterns of genomic variation in red squirrels inform our understanding of species evolution, demographic history and contemporary distribution?

2. Is there evidence for associations between genotype, phenotype, disease status and environment in red squirrels?

3. How can genomic data contribute to improved species resilience and long-term population sustainability within red squirrel conservation management interventions?

Funding information and application procedures:

This 3.5 year studentship opportunity is open to UK and international students and provides funding to cover stipend, tuition fees and consumable/travel costs.  

Application form can be downloaded via https://www.ed.ac.uk/sites/default/files/atoms/files/rdsvs_gaffs_roslin_foundation_studentship_application_form_2024-25.doc

Please send your completed Application Form to [Email Address Removed]

If you are applying for more than one studentship please submit a separate application with a closing date of noon on 8th January 2024 at https://www.ed.ac.uk/roslin/work-study/opportunities/studentships  

Biological Sciences (4)


Mead D et al. (2020) The genome sequence of the Eurasian red squirrel, Sciurus vulgaris Linnaeus 1758. Wellcome Open Res. 5:18. doi: 10.12688/wellcomeopenres.15679.1.
Cox PG et al. (2020) Morphological and functional variation between isolated populations of British red squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris). J. Zoology 312: 271-283. doi.org/10.1111/jzo.12829
Sainsbury AW et al. (2020) Implications of squirrelpox virus for successful red squirrel translocations within mainland UK. Conservation Science and Practice 2020;2:e200. https://doi.org/10.1111/csp2.200
Shafer et al. (2015) Genomics and the challenging translation into conservation practice. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 30(2), 78–87. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tree.2014.11.009

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 About the Project