The temporal evolution of immunogenetic diversity in an island bird (CASE studentship with IPNA-C...

University of East Anglia
October 13 2017
Life Sciences, Biology
Position Type
Full Time
Organization Type

Aim: To understand the temporal evolution of immunogenetic diversity in wild animals.


In the face of changing environments, genetic variation is essential for the survival of individuals and populations, and thus underpins biodiversity. How genetic diversity is generated and maintained in populations is, therefore, an important evolutionary question with ramifications for everything from epidemiology to conservation. Pathogens are a strong selective force so it is not surprising that immune genes are often extremely polymorphic. However, we lack fundamental understanding of the rate at which host immunogenetic variation changes over time in natural vertebrate populations, how different genetic mechanisms facilitate it, and the relative influence of genetic drift and selection in this.


The student will use genomic capture techniques to screen variation in Berthelot's pipit at 132 already immune identified loci. Using a combination of museum specimens (1820s), previously collected samples (2006) and fieldwork (2019) they will measure changes in immunogenetic variation across time in multiple isolated populations of this species. Our previous work has identified differences between these populations (in population size and pathogen regimes), which provide axes of variation against which to test temporal patterns of immunogentic change.

The student will investigate:

  1. The rate of immunogenetic change in a wild-living bird;

  2. The role of mutational rates or mechanisms in enabling change at immune genes;

  3. The relative importance of drift and pathogen-mediated selection in driving immunogenetic evolution;

  4. The role of different selection mechanisms that can act to maintain variation in natural populations.

Research Environment and Training

Supervised by Prof David Richardson and Dr Lewis Spurgin (UEA), with Dr Brent Emerson (CSIC), the student will join a dynamic, collaborative research community at UEA, and spend at least 3 months at CSIC, (CASE partner research institute in Tenerife) directly interacting with researchers.

The student will receive specialized training in ecological fieldwork, molecular genetics, bioinformatics and data analysis. They will also receive extensive training from NERC/UEA to increase generic scientific skills and enhance employability.

Person specification

- Degree in biology/zoology/related subject

- Field, molecular and analytical skills preferred - but training will be given


This project has been shortlisted for funding by the EnvEast NERC Doctoral Training Partnership, comprising the Universities of East Anglia, Essex and Kent, with over twenty other research partners. Undertaking a PhD with the EnvEast DTP will involve attendance at mandatory training events throughout the course of the PhD.

Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed on 12/13 February 2018.

Successful candidates who meet RCUK's eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship - in 2017/18, the stipend is £14,553. In most cases, UK and EU nationals who have been resident in the UK for 3 years are eligible for a stipend. For non-UK EU-resident applicants NERC funding can be used to cover fees, RTSG and training costs, but not any part of the stipend. Individual institutes may, however, elect to provide a stipend from their own resources.

EnvEast welcomes applicants from quantitative disciplines who may have limited background in environmental sciences. Excellent candidates will be considered for an award of an additional 3-month stipend to take appropriate advanced-level courses in the subject area.

For further information, please visit

This job comes from a partnership with Science Magazine and Euraxess

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