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Does dynamic ecological change cause rapid evolution?

We are seeking PhD students with interests in population genomics and mammal/reptile ecology and evolution to investigate the factors that drive population dynamics and evolution.

dynamic ecological change

Project Description

Studies documenting evolutionary change have typically focused on the role of strong selection in driving adaptation following abrupt environmental changes. We are applying high resolution genomic analyses to mammal and reptile samples collected from the Simpson Desert annually for the past 12 years to provide insights into the processes that underlie evolutionary change in fluctuating environments and combine these data with long-term demographic data, century-long rainfall records and ecological models. This approach will enable us to understand how climatic fluctuations that drive periodic population pulses act to structure genetic variation and drive rapid evolutionary change.

The projects are supported by an ARC Discovery Grant awarded to a team from the Universities of Canberra, Sydney and Harvard. The successful candidates will be based in Canberra but will be supervised by a cross-institutional panel drawn from Profs Stephen Sarre, Bernd Gruber and Richard Duncan (UC) and Profs Chris Dickman, Glenda Wardle (Usyd).

Candidate 1 will seek to determine the population/landscape genetics of mammal and/or reptile species in the Simpson Desert and across their range in response to dynamic ecological change driven by rare rainfall events. This project may incorporate the collection of historic tissue samples from museums and additional samples from field collection. This project will require significant time in the field collecting samples.

Candidate 2 will conduct theoretical work to model the spatial and temporal graininess of the landscape as it affects geneflow in mammals in an arid environment with a focus on detecting and characterising selection associated with RADseq type markers. A secondary focus will be on how those types of markers can be applied to conservation and management decision frameworks. This project may require some field collection.

Both candidates will possess experience in population genetics/genomics and spatial population modelling. Knowledge of NGS approaches and analyses is desirable. Both candidates will be expected to be self-motivated and well-organized, with the capacity to work in remote locations (including a driver’s license) and the broad skill set necessary for the successful completion of a research project. They will be collegial and able to work alongside a wide variety of people in the field and in multi-function teams and will have a strong commitment to excellence in research and scholarship.

How to Apply

Interested applicants are encouraged to make informal enquiries to Professor Stephen Sarre by 21 August at