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PhD Studentship: Conservation Genomics of the European Polecat (DIPALMA_UEI20ARIES)

University of East Anglia - School of Biological Sciences / Earlham Institute

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Norwich
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students
Funding amount: Not Specified
Hours: Full Time, Part Time
Placed On: 7th October 2019
Closes: 7th January 2020

Start date: October 2020 

Hours: Full Time or part time  

Studentship length: 3.5 years

Supervisor: Professor Federica Di Palma (

Project description:  

The European polecat is a medium-sized carnivore found across much of the United Kingdom. Once persecuted and found only in unmanaged forests of central Wales, it is now widespread across much of its former range. During this recent range-expansion, polecats came into contact with feral domestic ferrets and have hybridised with them. The extent of this hybridisation is unknown, but preliminary investigation suggests that it may be extensive. This project will look at the degree of hybridisation and subsequent genome introgression and asses the status of the European polecat in the UK. 

The student will complete all aspects of the project. This will entail sample procurement through an already-established network of Mustelid researchers and collections. Depending on the interests and qualification of the candidate, there will also be scope for fieldwork to collect fresh samples. DNA extraction and genome sequencing will be done in the Earlham Institute (EI) genomics lab using the latest sequencing technologies. Whole genome analysis to examine genome introgression and population genetics will be carried out using the High-Performance Computer cluster at EI. 

The student will interact with researchers from an extensive range of disciplines. They will have the opportunity to obtain skills in a variety of disciplines, including genomics, bioinformatics, and population genetics as well as a range of core skills provided by the doctoral training studentship. Opportunities may also arise to pursue other projects relevant to the students interests. The student will have the opportunity to travel to at least one international conference to present their research. 

The ideal candidate will have a BSc in a biological science with an emphasis in conservation science, population genetics, or bioinformatics along with an interest in performing research using genomics methods such as DNA extraction, whole genome sequencing, genome analysis, etc. Alternatively, they may have a BSc in Bioinformatics with an interest in population genetics or conservation science. 

Person Specification:  

We seek an enthusiastic and versatile scientist with a strong interest in community and landscape ecology and/or field entomology and botany. Experience of molecular ecology methods is highly desirable, although training will be given. Excellent people skills are needed for this position as the student will be liaising with farmers. 

First degree in Biological Sciences or Bioinformatics.

Funding notes:   

This project has been shortlisted for funding by the ARIES NERC Doctoral Training Partnership, and will involve attendance at mandatory training events throughout the course of the PhD. Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed on 18/19 February 2020. Successful candidates who meet UKRI’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship - UK and EU nationals who have been resident in the UK for 3 years are eligible for a full award. 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 in the subject area. For further information, please visit 

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