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Using genomic data of sponges to reveal patterns of genetic diversity and connectivity in the Mediterranean Sea

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, January 03, 2020
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Understanding the genetic diversity and connectivity patterns of marine invertebrates and how they adapt to their local environments is vital to design conservation strategies. Sponges are crucial components of the benthic ecosystems both because of their abundance and the services they provide [1]. Sponges are among the most threatened species to global warming, especially in seas like the Mediterranean [2], where massive decimations of sponges have recently been reported in correlation with increments in seawater temperature [2]. Given the important ecological role of sponges, such vast losses can have remarkable cascading effects on entire ecosystems [2]. In addition, given that all organisms rely on their genetic diversity to cope with changing environments, if that is reduced, the species’ adaptive potential is compromised, which could result in extinction.
Our aim with the present project is to evaluate the effects of both biological and environmental factors on the geographic distribution of genetic variation of Atlanto-Mediterranean sponges. We aim to understand whether gene flow exists across basins and how it varies depending on the reproductive strategy of the species (brooding vs. oviparous). Also, we will assess the adaptation patterns at the genomic level (using SNP datasets) across the entire distribution of the species.

Funding Notes

You can apply for fully-funded studentships (stipend and fees) from INSPIRE if you:
Are a UK or EU national.
Have no restrictions on how long you can stay in the UK.
Have been 'ordinarily resident' in the UK for 3 years prior to the start of the project.

Please click View Website for more information on eligibility and how to apply


[1] Bell, JJ et al. 2015. Conserv Biol 29, 42-53. [2] Garrabou, J et al. 2009. Glob Change Biol 15, 1090-103.

How good is research at University of Southampton in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 68.62

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