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PhD Studentship: Understanding Lifelong and Multigenerational Inbreeding Effects in the Seychelles Warbler

University of East Anglia - School of Biological Sciences

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Norwich
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students, International Students
Funding amount: £15,609 p.a. plus research funding, graduate training and £2,500 for external training, travel and conferences.
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 1st November 2021
Closes: 12th January 2022
Reference: RICHARDSON_UBIO22ARIES

How strongly inbreeding impacts wild animal populations and their conservation is still much debated, and probably greatly underestimated! As anthropogenic effects are driving many species into small, stressed populations where inbreeding and its effects are greatly exacerbated, it is urgent and important to resolve this question. 

Previous studies on inbreeding have been undermined by difficulties in measuring inbreeding, and/or restricted to short-term assessments of survival and reproduction. To properly quantify inbreeding depression, reproductive success must be measured across entire lifespans, and ideally beyond - to quantify each individual’s genetic contribution to the population after multiple generations. 

The monitoring of a small, isolated island population of the Seychelles warbler since 1993 provides a strong foundation for an exciting and topical PhD accurately assessing long-term inbreeding effects. Inbreeding occurs in the warbler, but how it impacts life-long fitness has not been determined. You will have access to an exceptional dataset tracking breeding and reproduction over the lives of 2000+ individuals. Genomic information will allow you to accurately resolve inbreeding, while the 12+ generation pedigree will enable analyses of reproductive success over generations. Fieldwork on Cousin Island will be undertaken to extend the data, assess survival and senescence and understand the system. 

The following objectives can be developed and prioritised according to your interests, 

1) Quantify the impact of inbreeding and being inbred on lifetime reproductive success (including sex and age/senescence effects)

2) Assess inbreeding depression in terms of an individual’s genetic contribution to the population measured after multiple generations.

3) Determine how much purging (selection against deleterious alleles) reduces future inbreeding depression. 

Research environment and training 

At UEA you will join a thriving (friendly) research group, supported by a vibrant ARIES cohort, work with BirdLife International (CASE partner) and collaborate with partners in the Seychelles and Groningen. You will gain diverse research skills in fieldwork, bioinformatics, analysis, conceptual understanding in evolutionary biology and conservation, critical thinking, scientific writing and public communication. Training to increase transferable skills and enhance employability will also be provided. 

Person specification 

Degree in biology/zoology/related subject

Field, molecular and/or analytical skills preferred

Contact David.richardson@uea.ac.uk for further details

https://people.uea.ac.uk/david_richardson

http://seychelles-warbler-project.group.shef.ac.uk 

Primary Supervisor: Professor David S Richardson

Start Date: 1 October 2022

For more information on this project, please visit www.uea.ac.uk 

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