PhD Studentship - The Role of Transposable Elements and Whole Genome Duplication in the Adaptive Radiation of Neotropical Catfishes (TAYLOR_UBIO18EE)

University of East Anglia - Biological Sciences

Location: Norwich

Start Date: October 2018

No. of positions available: 1

Supervisor: Dr Martin Taylor

Project description: Scientific background.

The Corydoras catfishes are a fascinating, species rich group of South American catfishes comprising more than 200 species. They are popular aquarium fishes and show great diversity in their colour patterns, frequently mimicking one another’s when living in sympatry (Alexandrou et al 2011). They also show great diversity in their genome size (amount of DNA per cell), with the largest genomes almost 6x bigger than the smallest. Larger genomes result in bigger cell sizes which may affect a wide range of biological processes. Genome size increases are driven by whole genome duplications (WGDs) where all of the chromosomes in a cell are duplicated and the proliferation of parasitic DNA sequences known as transposable elements (TEs). This project will investigate the roles of WGDs and TEs in generating genomic, phenotypic and species diversity.

Research methodology and training.

The project will be underpinned by the availability of two Corydoras genome sequences. The project will use a range of cutting edge genetic techniques (including next generation sequencing and quantitative PCR) to elucidate the type (TE family), locations (e.g. in or around genes or promoter regions), effects on mutation rates and abundance of TEs in different species. The project will provide training in molecular genetics, bioinformatic analysis of sequence data and phylogenetic analysis. The student will also have opportunities for conducting fieldwork in South America with Brazilian collaborators.

This project has been shortlisted for funding by the EnvEast NERC Doctoral Training Partnership, comprising the Universities of East Anglia, Essex and Kent, with over twenty other research partners. Undertaking a PhD with the EnvEast DTP will involve attendance at mandatory training events throughout the course of the PhD.

Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed on 12/13 February 2018.

For further information, please visit

Person specification: Applicants should have a Bachelors or Master’s degree in a biology related subject with an enquiring mind and a strong interest in evolutionary biology. An aptitude for work with large and complex DNA sequence data sets and enthusiasm for laboratory work are essential.

EnvEast welcomes applicants from quantitative disciplines who may have limited background in environmental sciences. Excellent candidates will be considered for an award of an additional 3-month stipend to take appropriate advanced-level courses in the subject area.

Minimum entry requirement: 2:1 or equivalent.

Funding notes: Successful candidates who meet RCUK’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship - in 2017/18, the stipend is £14,553. In most cases, UK and EU nationals who have been resident in the UK for 3 years are eligible for a stipend. For non-UK EU-resident applicants NERC funding can be used to cover fees, RTSG and training costs, but not any part of the stipend. Individual institutes may, however, elect to provide a stipend from their own resources.

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