The Genetic Impact of Climate and Cultural Change in Ancient Arabian Populations

   Faculty of Science

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  Dr Rui Martiniano, Dr Marc Haber, Prof J. D. Irish  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Despite its proximity to some of the major civilisations of the ancient world, the Arabian Peninsula remains severely understudied. Archaeological evidence points to repeated cycles of population decline and recolonisation as a result of desertification events. These shifts in climate were accompanied with important cultural transitions in the region, such as the introduction of agriculture and novel burial practices. However, due to the lack of ancient human genomes from Arabia, it remains unclear whether these cultural transformations emerged in the region as a result of migration or through the exchange of ideas with neighbouring civilisations.

Additionally, recent surveys of present-day genetic variation in Arabia revealed mutations under selection possibly due to changing environmental conditions and diet, but that are now associated with heightened predisposition to common diseases (e.g. Type 2 diabetes). Although we currently possess comprehensive datasets of present-day genomes from Peninsular Arabia, they offer limited power to determine the timing and the population movements associated with the introduction of adaptive variation in the region.

This competitive PhD scholarship offers a valuable opportunity to generate and analyse aDNA from Arabia to clarify 1) the genetic impact of cultural transformations in the region and 2) the demographic and selective processes that have shaped the prevalence of adaptive variation in local populations across time. In addition, dental morphological data, which have been proven to serve as viable proxies for DNA, will be recorded in these same samples.

The PhD student will join our flourishing School of Biological & Environmental Sciences, at Liverpool John Moores University and work under the supervisory team of Dr Rui Martiniano, Dr Marc Haber and Prof Joel D. Irish. The research will involve extracting DNA and preparing genomic libraries from ancient Arabian human remains at LJMU’s aDNA lab and generating whole-genome data using high-throughput sequencing instruments. Poor DNA preservation is a concern when dealing with samples from hot climates, and therefore, targeted capture approaches may be required to obtain informative genotypes from the most challenging samples. This project will also include dental anthropology approaches that are particularly informative for samples with no recoverable aDNA.

The resulting Arabian genomes and other data will be jointly analysed with publicly available datasets using a variety of population genetics methodologies to characterise the genetic composition of ancient populations and the admixture processes that led to their formation. Resulting publications in high impact journals are anticipated.

The Faculty of Science and its three Schools: Biological & Environmental Sciences, Pharmacy & Biomolecular Sciences, and Sports & Exercise Science, have dedicated Diversity and Inclusion (DI) Groups. The individual School Diversity & Inclusion Coordinators and the Faculty Associate Dean for Diversity & Inclusion lead collective action to promote and embed a culture of equality, diversity and inclusivity. All Schools are awarded the Athena SWAN Bronze in recognition of their respective equality initiatives and action plans. Also, Schools have proactive diversity and inclusion groups that are aimed to support staff and students by addressing the inclusivity requirements that are unique to each School, in alignment with the LJMU Diversity & Inclusion policies. Applicants are invited to visit the Faculty of Science and follow the link to each School.                            

Anthropology (2) Biological Sciences (4)

Funding Notes

This is a fully funded PhD studentship (consisting of full UK tuition fees for three years and student stipend at UK Research Council rates) funded by the School of Biological & Environmental Sciences, Liverpool John Moores University. The nature of the funding means only UK/Home/Settled/Pre-settled status students are eligible to apply for this studentship.


For an informal discussion or to enquire about this opportunity candidates are STRONGLY encouraged to email for more information and arrange a discussion.

To apply, email a CV and covering letter detailing your suitability for the project and contact details of two referees to Applicants need to be available for interview (in person or by video) on a date to be confirmed and be able to start the PhD with our February 2024 intake).

We are committed to making scientific research more inclusive and are keen to support applicants from groups that have long been underrepresented and/or marginalised from the field. If you belong to such groups, we would like to offer dedicated pre-application advice and mentorship, so that you can prepare the strongest possible application.

Dr Rui Martiniano:

Dr Marc Haber:

Prof Joel D. Irish:
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