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The evolution of inbreeding depression in wild flax and implications for crop development.

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  • Full or part time
    Dr A.C Brennan
    Prof AR Hoelzel
    Dr C A Kidner
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

ovelty: Our research in wild flax will use new genotyping by sequencing technologies to obtain an unprecedented genome-wide perspective on inbreeding and its evolution, allowing the identification of relevant genes, and therefore the consideration of molecular mechanisms. These insights could then be applied to genetic improvement of flax to sustainably enhance agricultural production as well as improving our understanding of this fundamental aspect of evolution.
Research training: Research training: The student will gain bioinformatics skills that are in high demand both within academia and in wider industry. The project in general will require attention to detail, careful logical thought, and excellent numeracy, all of which are highly desirable transferable skills across all work sectors.
Background: Avoidance of inbreeding depression is understood to be a major force driving the evolution and maintenance of sexual outcrossing reproductive systems. By outcrossing, diploid organisms ensure the fitness of their offspring by maintaining heterozygosity. Humans have been domesticating species to suit their agricultural needs for the past 10k years. Artificial selection for individual traits often involves inbreeding and fixation of genetic variation. More recently, modern breeding practice has been able to reintroduce genetic variation and hybrid vigour into many domesticated species leading to impressive improvements in performance. Often this involves crosses between distinct varieties but crosses with wild relatives are also vital for introducing novel variation.
New genetic technologies now offer unprecedented opportunities to study the relationship between heterozygosity, reproductive system, and fitness at a genome-wide scale. We will address these questions in a model system, wild flax, which sits at the interface between evolutionary and applied biology. Cultivated flax is a globally important crop for both fibre and oilseed production and inbred varieties have been shown to benefit from hybridization. Surprisingly little is known about reproductive system and fitness in wild flax, a potentially valuable source of genetic variation for crop improvement.
Aims and Methods: We propose to test the extent and nature of inbreeding and its relationship with fitness in wild flax. We will use new genotyping by sequencing technologies to obtain an unprecedented genome-wide perspective on inbreeding and its evolution, allowing the identification of relevant genes and molecular mechanisms. The CASE partner, RBGE, is an internationally important organization responsible for the conservation and study of plant and fungal biodiversity. This project will feed into the core scientific activities of RBGE to generate baseline botanical data, to document and conserve plant biodiversity, and better understand evolutionary processes in plants.

Funding Notes

This PhD will fully fund students with UK resident status or provide university fees only to EU students (see http://www.rcuk.ac.uk/documents/news/terms-and-conditions-of-research-council-training-grants/).
Please contact Dr Adrian Brennan, [Email Address Removed] for further questions or to apply with a CV and a cover letter by 25th February 2018 deadline. The PhD is available to start as soon as March 2018 but a delay until the end of the current academic year is also possible.

How good is research at Durham University in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 39.00

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