The separation of species requires the evolution of genetic barriers to gene exchange. Understanding this crucial process requires that we identify the genetic differences involved and how they affect patterns of gene flow along genomes. In recent years, whole genome scans for excess divergence (e.g. Fst) has become a common way to identify candidate genes involved in adaptation and reproductive isolation. However, it is still unclear what causes ‘genomic islands’ and whether differential gene flow is involved. This PhD project will exploit the power of hybrid zones to compare various methods for assessing genomic differentiation and geographic clines in the genetically tractable Snapdragon system native to the Spanish Pyrenees and in Kangaroo Paws in Western Australia. We will also assess alternative demographic models of secondary contact at independent hybrid zones to understand how past history influences the signals of genetic barriers observed today. The research project is part of an Austrian Science Fund (FWF) awarded project (David Field – Chief Investigator) and part of an international effort involving researchers from IST Austria (Nick Barton), Max Plank (Frank Chan) and John Innes Centre UK (Enrico Coen). The applicant will be embedded within this established and multidisciplinary team with access to numerous genetic resources. Wet lab experience not necessary as most genomic data will be outsourced. All field work expenses, research costs and computational facilities covered.
Desired skills: Good quantitative and programming skills (R or Python). Previous experience in population genetics and/or bioinformatics is desirable.
Project Area: Evolution, Population genomics, Bioinformatics
Supervisor(s): Dr David Field
Project level: Masters, PhD
Funding: Applicant should apply for ECUHDR or RTP Scholarship
Start date: Semester 1, 2021
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