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PhD Studentship: Revealing the genomic basis of reproductive mode evolution and speciation in Littorina snails

University of Sussex - Biology

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Sussex, Brighton, Falmer
Funding for: UK Students
Funding amount: Home (UK) tuition fees and stipend at standard UKRI rates.
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 23rd August 2023
Closes: 28th February 2024
 

A PhD studentship (3.5 years) is available from September 2024 under the supervision of Dr. Sean Stankowski department of Ecology, Evolution and Behaviour, School of Life Sciences.

Deadline: 28th February 2024

Project Title:

Revealing the genomic basis of reproductive mode evolution and speciation in Littorina snails

Brief Description of the Project:

We are seeking an enthusiastic and motivated PhD student to study the links between reproductive mode evolution and speciation in intertidal snails from the genus Littorina.

The process of speciation involves the build-up of isolating barriers that restrict gene exchange between populations. Although barriers to gene flow are critical to divergence and species coexistence, we rarely understand the traits and loci that underpin strong isolation.

The aim of this project is to understand how differences in female reproductive mode contribute to strong isolation between closely-related species of intertidal snail. In the UK and Europe, a live-bearing species of periwinkle (Littorina saxatilis) coexists with egg-laying species (Littorina compressa and Littorina arcana). A lack of hybrids between sympatric egg-layers and live-bearers indicates that the barrier to gene flow between them is very strong.

Recent work has revealed many candidate regions of genome that underpin the difference in reproductive mode (Stankowski et al. 2024, Science). In this project, you will use a new reference genomes, new and existing genomic data, and cutting-edge methods to determine if mode-associated loci also act as barriers to gene flow. Specific objectives include: (1) to more precisely determine the number and genomic distribution of loci associated with the difference in reproductive mode; (2) to determine if reproductive mode acts a barrier by (a) identifying barrier loci and (b) testing for overlap with reproductive mode-associated loci; and (3) to reconstruct the demographic history of divergence to reveal help us understand when and how barriers to gene flow evolved. The succesfull candidate will be encouraged to take the project in directions that excite them most.

Informal enquiries about the project can be made to Sean Stankowski at s.stankowski@sussex.ac.uk

How to apply:

Please submit a formal application using the online admissions portal attaching a CV, degree transcripts and certificates, personal statement, and two academic referees. A research proposal is not required.

On the application system select Programme of Study – PhD Biology. Please state the project title under funding obtained and the supervisor’s name where required.

Ideal candidates will have some bioinformatics skills, experience working with genomic datasets, will have used a HPC, and be excited about the subject area. Candidates should have or expect to obtain a minimum 2:1 undergraduate degree. An MSc degree will be advantageous. Your qualification should be in Biology or a related subject area. You may also be considered for the position if you have other professional qualifications or experience of equivalent standing.

Candidates for whom English is not their first language will require an IELTS score of 6.5 overall, with not less than 6.0 in any section - English language requirements

Applications are particularly welcomed from candidates with protected characteristics – e.g., from Black and other ethnic minorities – who are under-represented in postgraduate research at our institution.

For enquiries about the application process, please email Emma Chorley: lifesci-rec@sussex.ac.uk

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