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The causes of speciation rate variation in nature

   School of Biosciences

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  Dr C Cooney  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

The project

Rates of species formation vary dramatically across the tree of life and contribute to profound differences in species richness among clades, regions and through time. In recent years, our understanding of speciation rate variation has been transformed by the availability of time-calibrated phylogenetic trees for many extant groups, often encompassing thousands of species. The growing availability of these trees, combined with powerful analytical models capable of reconstructing historical patterns of evolution, has allowed us to characterise speciation rate variation among lineages in unprecedented detail. However, our understanding of the factors that promote or constrain speciation rates over evolutionary time is surprisingly poor, and many longstanding hypotheses for the causes of speciation rate variation in nature remain to be broadly tested.

Work in my lab aims to understand the processes generating and maintaining large scale patterns of biodiversity. We specialise in the use of phylogenetic comparative methods and a core component of our work involves integrating data from diverse sources with information on species’ evolutionary histories to reveal fundamental forces shaping Earth’s biodiversity. We address a broad range of macroecological and macroevolutionary questions and are particularly interested in understanding how ecological and behavioural factors interact to drive evolutionary dynamics across the tree of life.

Students in my lab have the opportunity to work with premier global natural history museum collections (e.g. NHM Tring) and will acquire advanced statistical, computational and communication skills that are highly transferable. In addition, there is scope to develop genomic or international fieldwork-based projects related to these topics.

The team

The PhD student will be embedded within Dr Chris Cooney’s lab ( in the School of Biosciences at the University of Sheffield.

We encourage applications from candidates from all backgrounds with broad interests in ecology and evolution. Informal enquiries are strongly welcomed and encouraged. If you are interested, please contact Dr Chris Cooney at [Email Address Removed].

Science Graduate School

As a PhD student in one of the science departments at the University of Sheffield, you’ll be part of the Science Graduate School. You’ll get access to training opportunities designed to support your career development by helping you gain professional skills that are essential in all areas of science. You’ll be able to learn how to recognise good research and research behaviour, improve your communication abilities and experience the breadth of technologies that are used in academia, industry and many related careers. Visit to learn more.

Funding Notes

This position is for self funded or externally funded students only.

First class or upper second 2(i) in a relevant subject. To formally apply for a PhD, you must complete the University's application form using the following link:

All applicants should ensure that both references are uploaded onto their application as a decision will be unable to be made without this information.

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