Funded PhD: Quantitative genetics of senescence in Seychelles warblers

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hannah dugdale
Posts: 1
Joined: Fri Dec 17, 2021 8:51 am

Funded PhD: Quantitative genetics of senescence in Seychelles warblers

Post by hannah dugdale »

Individuals deteriorate with age –a process known as senescence– but individuals within a single population often differ a lot in how they age. Why??? The causes of individual differences in senescence patterns remain poorly understood. Genetic variation is hypothesised to play a major role in determining individual senescence patterns. Quantitative genetics allows estimation of the genetic variation underlying senescence. You will investigate the relative impact of environmental and genetic factors on senescence using the model Seychelles warbler system. You will have access to the exceptional Seychelles warbler study population and the associated long-term dataset, genetic pedigree and whole genome data. Potential research questions are: 1) Is there synchrony of senescence across morphological, physiological and behavioural traits? 2) Is there a live-fast die-young trade off, with a negative genetic correlation between early-life fecundity and lifespan, and a positive correlation between age of first and last reproduction; 3) How does the additive genetic variation of traits that senesce change with age?; 4) What is the genetic architecture of senescence – is it polygenic, whereby the additive genetic variance of traits that senescence is proportional to the length of different genomic regions?; and, 5) Do genomic regions underpinning senescence covary with fitness?

This is a double degree at RUG and UEA, embeded for four years in the Seychelles Warbler Project ( For the first two-years you will be based at RUG and for the second two-years you will be based at UEA. You will be supervised by Hannah Dugdale (RUG; and David S Richardson (UEA; You will conduct fieldwork in the Seychelles for a minimum of three seasons (up to 3 months per season), with a COVID-19 contingency plan. You will be part of a team of PhD students, post-docs, and staff who are using long-term individual-based datasets of natural populations to improve understanding of life-history evolution.


We are looking for a candidate who:

• holds a Master degree (or will graduate before appointment date) in Evolutionary Biology or a relevant field
• is curiosity driven and passionate about fundamental research in the context of genomics and senescence
• has previous experience of bird ringing and conducting fieldwork in harsh environments (training will be provided)
• has strong quantitative skills in statistics and bioinformatics (training will be provided)
• has experience in extracting and analysing data from databases (e.g. Access) or large datasets (training will be provided)
• is a team player, willing to work with a diverse group of researchers and technicians, and can also work independently
• has strong communication skills and is motivated to disseminate results to both scientific peers and a broad audience
• is proficient in the English language (;
• is strongly motivated to obtain a PhD degree.

Deadline for application: 31 March 2022
Interviews: mid-April 2022
Start of the position: 1 August or 1 September 2022

For more information and to apply: ... 02S000914P

Hammers M, Kingma SA, van Boheemen LA, Sparks A, Burke T, Dugdale HL, Richardson DS, Komdeur J. 2021. Helpers compensate for age-related declines in parental care and offspring survival in a cooperatively breeding bird. Evolution Letters 5, 143-153

Hammers M, Kingma SA, Bebbington K, van de Crommenacker J, Spurgin LG, Richardson DS, Burke TA, Dugdale HL, Komdeur J (2015) Senescence in the wild: Insights from a long-term study on Seychelles warblers. Experimental Gerontology, 71, 69–79

Raj Pant S, Hammers M, Komdeur J, Burke T, Dugdale HL, Richardson DS (2020) Age-dependent changes in infidelity in Seychelles warblers. Molecular Ecology 29, 3731-3746

Sparks AM, Spurgin LG, van der Velde M, Fairfield EA, Komdeur J, Burke T, Richardson DS, Dugdale HL (2021) Telomere heritability and parental age at conception effects in a wild avian population. Molecular Ecology doi: 10.1111/mec.15804