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Understanding coral connectivity and its drivers across the Indian Ocean


   School of Life Sciences

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  Dr M Taylor, Dr Catherine Head, Prof L Hepburn, Prof Stephen Monismith  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Supervisory Team

Dr Michelle Taylor (School of Life Sciences, University of Essex)

Dr Catherine Head (Institue of Zoology, London, and University of Oxford)

Prof Leanne Hepburn (School of Life Sciences, University of Essex)

Prof Stephen Monismith (Stanford)

Porites is considered a Scleractinia coral genus resilient to climate change-induced increases in sea surface temperature. For this reason research focus often overlooks Porites, despite it being a major reef-builder, sometimes dominating reef communities post-bleaching, contributing towards maintaining positive reef carbonate budgets. Understanding population connectivity of Porites at local and regional scales is important in understanding future winners/losers on coral reefs; Something crucial given the high reliance on reefs that human populations have globally.

This project aims to examine cross-Indian ocean connectivity of Porites lutea by:

1)        Investigating P.lutea genomic population structure across the Indian Ocean (Ile Glorieuses islands, Mozambique Channel, east to Indonesia, north and east to Bahrain).

2)        Mapping hydrodynamic connectivity from the Chagos Archipelago, central Indian Ocean.

3)        Understanding drivers of P.lutea population structure by synthesising genomic and hydrodynamic connectivity patterns.

The above will elucidate genomic connectivity of an important reef-building coral over 8000km, west to east, and 4000km north to south - the largest geographical range of any coral studied. A novel drifter array will provide a snap-shot of ocean current patterns around Chagos allowing investigation of how genomic connectivity, ocean currents and temperature, which drive larval dispersal patterns, are interlinked.

Methods: Genomic connectivity analysis utilising ultra-conserved elements (UCEs) to isolate 10K+ markers using next generation sequencing. Common population genomics analyses will elucidate connectivity and migration patterns. Satellite-tracked GPS drifters with high temporal resolution will be used to map hydrodynamic connectivity. The resulting velocity and temperature data will be quality-controlled and analysed to identify primary patterns of possible physical connectivity. Seascape genomics, the comparison of genomic and environmental data to investigate drivers of connectivity, will then be undertaken; such research requires the interdisciplinary science suggested here.

Training in laboratory techniques, sequencing library preparation, coding for big data handling, population genomic analyses, drifter data quality control, oceanographic modelling, and GIS will be given. There is opportunity for fieldwork experience. This PhD suits a quantitatively-minded candidate with some experience in R/ Matlab/Python. Suitable degrees could cover topics such as genetics/mathematics/physics and/or biology, those with an interest in genomics/oceanography and/or coral reef ecology.

How to Apply

Email a covering letter and CV to [Email Address Removed] by 23:59pm on 11/01/2023

This project has been shortlisted for funding by the ARIES NERC CASE DTP.

Successful candidates who meet UKRI’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship, which covers fees, stipend (£17,668 p.a. for 2022/23) and research funding. International applicants are eligible for fully-funded ARIES studentships including fees. Please note however that ARIES funding does not cover additional costs associated with relocation to, and living in, the UK.

Excellent applicants from quantitative disciplines with limited experience in environmental sciences may be considered for an additional 3-month stipend to take advanced-level courses.

ARIES is committed to equality, diversity, widening participation and inclusion in all areas of its operation. We encourage enquiries and applications from all sections of the community regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation and transgender status. Academic qualifications are considered alongside significant relevant non-academic experience.

For further information, please visit www.aries-dtp.ac.uk


Funding Notes

This project has been shortlisted for funding by the ARIES NERC CASE DTP.
Successful candidates who meet UKRI’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship, which covers fees, stipend (£17,668 p.a. for 2022/23) and research funding. International applicants are eligible for fully-funded ARIES studentships including fees. Please note however that ARIES funding does not cover additional costs associated with relocation to, and living in, the UK.
Excellent applicants from quantitative disciplines with limited experience in environmental sciences may be considered for an additional 3-month stipend to take advanced-level courses.
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