2 PhD positions available

If you’re interested, please send which position you are interested in, your CV, a short letter of motivation, and e-mail addresses of two academic referees, to Julia.schroeder@imperial.ac.uk before 30 December 2017.


Exciting opportunity to get top-notch quantitative analytical skills. In collaboration with Dr Danica Greetham from Reading University, and Terry Burke from UoS, we offer a PhD postion on linking infidelity with social networks in birds! Apply if you like stats and birds! Deadline 30 December 2017


Infidelity is common among many taxa with prevailing social monogamy, but we still do not know what shapes variation in, and drives the evolution of, extra-pair behaviour. Males are expected to reap fitness benefits from siring extra-pair offspring, because extra-pair fathers do not expend resources on costly parental care. This is, however, not the case for females who raise the resulting extra-pair young, posing the question of why females take part in extra-pair matings. The indirect benefits hypothesis explains female infidelity, where females benefit indirectly from better, or more compatible genes for their offspring. However, this hypothesis is not well supported empirically, evidenced by two contradictory meta-analyses on the topic, and ongoing discussion in the field. Specifically, only one long-term study that quantified life-time reproductive success supports the indirect fitness benefits hypothesis. Contradicting this result, extra-pair males have not been found to be superior, or more compatible, than a female’s within-pair male. Females were found to incur no indirect benefits, and even fitness costs by mating outside of their pair bond, suggesting that that this hypothesis does not satisfactorily explain why females cheat. Recently suggested novel, testable hypotheses provide a fresh perspective. These hypotheses explain female infidelity with intra- and intersexual antagonistic pleiotropy, and remain largely untested. This project aims to empirically test these hypotheses by using the powerful combination of long-term data from a wild population, state-of-the-art social network analysis and manipulative experiments on captive birds. This project will reap the benefits from long-term data in the wild, where precise fitness data and a genetic pedigree allow fitness costs and benefits to be measured, and quantitative genetic analyses. Given the long-standing conundrum of female extra-pair behaviour, this project has the potential forward this field significantly.


Very cool project on trans-generational effects. We’ll use RNA sequencing experiments on sparrow sperm to detect epigenetic, trans-generational effects. This project on the forefront of epigenetics is super exciting because we have long-term data available, and the expertise from researchers at the Sanger Institute (Dr Katharina Gapp) and the Gurdon Institute University Cambridge (Prof Eric Miska) on board! If you like the lab, and birds, and field work, this is for you! Deadline 30 December 2017


The current speed at which environmental conditions change is unprecedented, endangering vulnerable populations and species. A novel idea for how organisms can sustainably respond to rapid environmental changes are environmentally induced adaptations that are heritable. Such trans-generational, potentially epigenetic effects can, with high precision mediate evolutionary rescue of populations that experience rapidly changing environments. These advantages put TAGs at the forefront of mechanisms leading to adaptations to global change. This project will use long-term data from a wild population of passerines, and focused experiments on birds in captivity, to disentangle phenotypic plasticity induced during development from epigenetic TAGs, to better understand the epigenetic mechanism, and evolution of TAGs. We will use state-of-the art RNA-sequencing experiments (to be performed in the Sanger institute) to pinpoint TAGs in RNA methylation patterns in sparrow sperm, using focused experiments in captive and wild birds.

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