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Understanding patterns of gene flow and local adaptation in a hybrid zone

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Wednesday, January 09, 2019
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

A long-standing quest in evolutionary genetics is to understand the process of hybridisation and speciation. The characterisation of patterns of gene flow and the identification of genes underlying local adaptation is central to this quest. However, despite much research, these remain major challenges. The availability of genome-scale datasets presents an exciting new opportunity for tackling these fundamental questions. The great tit (Parus major), an organism widely used in evolutionary and ecological studies, has formed a hybrid zone in the Far East with a close relative, the Japanese tit (Parus minor). Although hybrid individuals are commonly found, we know little about the relative importance of gene flow and natural selection in shaping evolutionary changes in these species.

This PhD focuses on analysing whole-genome resequencing data on birds collected from populations across the hybrid zone to obtain detailed patterns of gene flow across the genome and detect genes underlying local adaptation. The work coincides with active research in our laboratories into the development of statistical methods for performing these analyses, which will benefit the project by providing a novel and more powerful methods and will also offer interested students an opportunity of taking part in method development.

This project would suit a highly motivated student interested in population/evolutionary genetics with enthusiasm for analysing large genomics datasets. Applications are welcomed from those who have a degree in a biological or any other relevant discipline (e.g., statistics, computer science).

Funding Notes

Fully funded studentships cover: (i) a stipend at the UKRI rate (at least £14,777 per annum for 2019-2020), (ii) research costs, and (iii) tuition fees. Studentship(s) are available to UK and EU students who meet the UK residency requirements.
This PhD project is part of the NERC funded Doctoral Training Partnership “ACCE” (Adapting to the Challenges of a Changing Environment View Website. ACCE is a partnership between the Universities of Sheffield, Liverpool, York, CEH, and NHM.
Shortlisted applicants will be invited for an interview to take place at the University of Sheffield the w/c 11th February 2019.

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