PhD Program in Population Genomics – 2024 | University of Leeds, United Kingdom

The University of Leeds has open positions in the PhD program for population genomics for the year 2024. Physiology, development and ecological genetics are the primary research areas.

Population Genomics

The only native crayfish species in the UK is the white-clawed crayfish (Austropotamobius pallipes), and its population is critically declining across its habitat. Loss of habitat and competition from the invasive signal crayfish (Pacifastacus leniusculus), which also transmits the oomycete disease known as “crayfish plague” (Aphanomyces astaci), cause population reduction and local extinctions. The crayfish epidemic has little to no effect on signal crayfish. However, they infect white-clawed crayfish, which are extremely vulnerable and die 100% of the time. As a result, the IUCN Red List (IUCN 2022) (1) now lists white-clawed crayfish as globally endangered.

Currently, the UK’s white-clawed crayfish conservation strategy consists of gathering surviving individuals to create “ark populations” in remote waterbodies (2). But doing so runs the danger of having founder effects, which might lower genetic variety and raise the possibility of inbreeding and a loss of ability to respond to upcoming environmental problems like illness and climate change.

Words from the university

Through this multi-disciplinary applied project, the student will contribute to white-clawed crayfish conservation efforts by applying cutting-edge genomic technology and approaches. This will be combined with field work with licenced surveyors from the CASE partner APEM Ltd (3), to collect non-invasive samples from white-clawed crayfish populations from across its range. The project will be co-supervised by Professor Alison Dunn and Dr Simon Goodman at the University of Leeds and by Drs Paul Stebbing and Jo James at APEM.  The PhD will have industry support from APEM Ltd, a leading global environmental consultancy with extensive experience in the conservation and management of crayfish. Through this partnership with Leeds University, the student will receive training from world experts in white-clawed crayfish field techniques as well as genetic analysis and data interpretation.

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The information the student produces will help determine the white-clawed crayfish’s conservation risks both now and in the future. High-impact articles in the disciplines of conservation and genetics will result from the effort. The student will take part in turning these findings into conservation strategy and planning for the endangered white-clawed crayfish by collaborating with academics and environmental experts.

Methodologies & training

The student will be trained in and apply methods in the following areas: population resequencing to generate population genomic datasets, and associated pipelines for population genomic data analysis to characterize population structure, reconstruct demographic histories, detect selection signatures, evaluate inbreeding risks, and develop conservation genetic management strategies; de novo reference genome sequencing, assembly, and annotation using Illumina and Nanopore platforms and associated bioinformatics pipelines using high-performance computing environments.

For more details visit the official website.

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  1. Honours degree and/or Masters in a topic relating to Biology, Zoology, Ecology, Genetics, Biodiversity, Evolution, Bioinformatics, Maths and Biology etc.
  2. Prior experience in bioinformatics is helpful but not essential.
  3. Academic certificates, including transcripts
  4. CV, SOP, and letter of recommendation

Deadline: 5th January 2024

For more information and application, visit the official website.

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