Graduate position: USheffield.2PhD.EvolutionaryGenomics

We are seeking two highly motivated and enthusiastic PhD students to study
sex chromosomes in birds and reptiles.

Deadline for applying: 9th January 2018

*Evolution and implications of sex determination diversity*

Lead supervisor: Dr Alison Wright, University of Sheffield

Co-supervisors: Prof Jon Slate (University of Sheffield), Prof Steve
Paterson (University of Liverpool)

Sex chromosomes have evolved independently, multiple times across animals
and closely related species often exhibit different sexual systems and
modes of sex determination. Understanding the causes and consequences of
this diversity is a major challenge in evolutionary biology, with important
implications for sexual selection, sexual dimorphism and adaptation.  The
project will tackle these questions using cutting-edge bioinformatic
techniques and next-generation sequence data across reptile species.
Reptiles are an ideal group to study sex chromosome evolution as they
exhibit an exceptional diversity in sex determination systems, where
different types of sex chromosomes have evolved independently multiple
times, making it possible to identify convergent evolutionary patterns.

The approach taken can be tailored to the particular interests of the
student, and could include studies of sex chromosome degeneration and
sexualisation, gene expression evolution and sexual conflict. Applicants
should have strong analytical skills and an enthusiasm for evolutionary

Interested applicants are encouraged to contact Alison Wright before
applying ( <>) for more
details on the project, funding and facilities. For details on current
research in the Wright lab, see

*Evolutionary genomics of zebra finch **supergenes*

Lead supervisor: Prof Jon Slate, University of Sheffield

Co-supervisors: Dr Alison Wright (University of Sheffield), Prof Steve
Paterson (University of Liverpool)

Inversion polymorphisms (?supergenes?) are increasingly recognised as an
important source of genetic variation, responsible for some dramatic
phenotypes (e.g. social system in fire ants, male morphs in ruffs, mimicry
in butterflies etc.). We have recently shown that a supergene on the Z
chromosome (a sex chromosome) explains nearly all of the heritable
variation in sperm morphology in zebra finches (Kim et al. 2017; see also
However, the origin and evolution of the supergene are unknown.

This project will harness next-generation sequencing technology to
understand the Z chromosome supergene, and the evolutionary importance of
inversion polymorphisms more generally.  The student will use long reads
generated by 10X Genomics technology to:

1) Determine the origin of the Z chromosome inversion polymorphism;
2) Understand the molecular evolution of the genes within it;
3) Compare the Z inversion and at least three autosomal inversion
polymorphisms to understand how, and wherein the genome, inversion
polymorphisms arise.

The project will suit a candidate that is excited by analysing genomic
datasets to address evolutionary questions.


These PhD projects will provide an excellent opportunity to learn
genomic skills to study sex chromosomes and test clear theoretical
predictions. The successful candidate will be trained in cutting-edge
bioinformatics and genomic techniques. The applicant will benefit from the
diverse range of expertise offered by the co-supervisors and researchers
within the Animal and Plant Sciences Department at the University of

*Funding Notes*

For details on how to apply, including eligibility, see:

Dr Alison Wright

NERC Independent Research Fellow
Dept. of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield
Sheffield, S10 2TN