PhD studentship available at UoS in Ecological Genomics

A 3-year PhD studentship is available in APS, in Sheffield. Interested applicants are encouraged to contact Patrik Nosil at: p.nosil@sheffield.ac.uk

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Project title: Genetic and Epigenetic Mechanisms for Ecological Change

Eligibility: Home/EU applicants with an upper second-class degree in a relevant subject

A three-year PhD opportunity funded by the Royal Society of London is available to use a combined experimental and genomic approach to study the origins of ecological novelty in plant-feeding stick insects (genus Timema). The project will be conducted under the supervision of Dr. Patrik Nosil in the Department of Animal and Plant Sciences at the University of Sheffield.

The project tackles a crucial issue in our understanding of biodiversity: what genetic mechanisms allow for the successful colonisation of new environments, and thus the origins of ecological novelty? In this context, two non-mutually exclusive hypotheses will be tested. The first more classical hypothesis is that populations already harbor an abundance of pre-existing genetic variation. Thus, when a population is subjected to a new environmental regime, some subset of individuals already harbors genetic variants that allow for success in the new environment. A second hypothesis concerns aspects of non-genetic inheritance, such as epigenetic variation (defined as changes to the genome that do not involve a change in nucleotide sequence, often linked to gene expression). Epigenetic variation may allow individuals to rapidly express phenotypes that match the environment, promoting population persistence. The project approach will be to quantify genetic variation in the ability to use novel environments using quantitative genetic and genomic mapping methods, and to quantify epigenetic variation using methylome sequencing. The study system is Timema stick insects, which have repeatedly undergone ecological shifts between host plant environments.

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