Two funded PhD projects in evolution/genetics/genomics/development of snails, Dec 8th deadline

The Davison lab at the University of Nottingham is seeking enthusiastic and well-qualified students to apply for two PhD positions, both funded by the BBSRC DTP. Deadline 8th December 2017. Apply here.

In previous research, the Davison-lab led an international team (including BBSRC-funded PhD student Harriet Johnson) dedicated to finding the gene that determines mirror image development (“chirality”) in the pond snail, Lymnaea stagnalis. More generally, we are using molluscan genomics, with projects dedicated to finding evolutionary interesting genes, whether chiral variation in Japanese Euhadra or the colour polymorphism / supergene of Cepaea (both involving BBSRC funded student Paul Richards). Field work and foreign lab work is always an option - Harriet Johnson spent 5 months in a German lab and Paul Richards undertook field work in Japan. Current PhD students Daniel Ramos and Hannah Jackson are undertaking work in the Spanish Pyrenees and Hawaii. The lab also has a strong background in science communication.

We now wish to take our research to the next stage and so have available two new competitively funded studentships.

I would strongly encourage good candidates to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you have any queries prior to the application; feel free to contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you have any queries relating to lab life / the University / Nottingham.

Project #1: "The evolution and development of left-right asymmetry in snails"

Project supervisors: Dr Angus Davison and Dr William Brown, University of Nottingham, UK.

While invariant left/right asymmetry appears to be the rule in nearly all animals, until recently it has not been clear if the path to asymmetry is conserved. In recent research we identified the one in a billion base pair change that determines mirror image development (“chirality”) in the pond snail. As we also showed that the same gene is similarly involved in setting up asymmetry in the frog, then our work that began in snails ultimately revealed one of the earliest common symmetry-breaking steps across the whole of the Bilateria. The next stage is to ‘unravel’ symmetry breaking at the molecular and cellular level, in particular to find the set of genes that first establish asymmetry. In this exciting and fast-moving, the student will seek to understand the mechanics of the very earliest symmetry-breaking steps using Lymnaea stagnalis pond snails, or another species. Most likely, this will involve a range of techniques, from micromanipulation to genomics/bioinformatics, and possibly fieldwork – with the balance determined by the interests of the student.

Most relevant publications:

Davison, A, McDowell, GS, Holden, JM, Johnson, HF, Koutsovoulos, GD, Liu, MM, Hulpiau, P, Van Roy, F, Wade, CM, Banerjee, R, Yang, F, Chiba, S, Davey, JW, Jackson, DJ, Levin M, and Blaxter, ML (2016). Formin is associated with left–right asymmetry in the pond snail and the frog. Current Biology, 26, 654-660. Hyperlink: www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(16)00056-7

Richards PM, Morii Y, Kimura K, Hirano T, Chiba S, and Davison A (2017). Single-gene speciation: mating and gene flow between mirror-image snails. Evolution Letters, in press (due 21st November)

Liu, MM, Davey, JW, Jackson, DJ, Blaxter, ML and Davison, A (2014) A conserved set of maternal genes? Insights from a molluscan transcriptome. International Journal of Developmental Biology, 58: 501-511.

The project is competitively funded through the 'Molecules, Cells and Organisms' stream of the Nottingham BBSRC DTP. Applicants should have, or expect to get, a First Class or Upper Second degree or equivalent in a relevant subject. Further experience, including a Masters degree, is likely to be advantageous. Applications are open to UK + EU residents (EU students will be considered and may be eligible for full funding).

This project is also advertised here.

Project #2: "Genetic approaches to understanding molluscan crop pests"

Project supervisors: Dr Angus Davison, Dr Chris Wade and Dr Matt Loose, University of Nottingham, UK.

Snails and slugs cause worldwide problems, both in terms of direct damage to crops, and as intermediate vectors for diseases of farm animals. Yet, they are difficult to identify and we have little idea of what influences their distributions, hindering appropriate control measures. Genetic techniques offer a potential solution in that they can be used to understand gene-flow, the relationship and taxonomy of different species, and, ultimately, the genes involved in enabling adaptation to human-affected environments. However, molluscs in general are relatively lacking in genomic resources, partly because they generally have large genomes, but also because there is no single model mollusc to drive research forward. In this project, the student will apply population genetic, phylogenetic and genomic methods (e.g. RAD-seq) to a tropical snail species, with a view to understanding the adaptations that enable it to become invasive. With suitable resources in place, we hope to get a more general picture of invasive species and crop pests.

Note: this project and the lab rotations that come before it will be run as a 'training triangle', involving training in population genetics, phylogenetics and genomics. We anticipate that the final PhD research project will involve a balance of these different aspects, dependent upon the interests and skills of the students.

Relevant publications:

Fontanilla IK, Naggs F and Wade CM (2017). Molecular phylogeny of the Achatinoidea (Mollusca: Gastropoda). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 114: 382-385.

Loose M, Sunir M and Stout, M (2016). Real-time selective sequencing using nanopore technology. Nature Methods 13: 751-754.

Evans T, Wade CM, Chapman FA, Johnson AD, and Loose M (2014). Acquisition of germ plasm accelerates vertebrate evolution. Science 344: 200-203.

Richards, PM, Liu, MM, Lowe, N, Davey, JW, Blaxter, ML and Davison, A (2013). RAD-Seq derived markers flank the shell colour and banding loci of the Cepaea nemoralis supergene. Molecular Ecology 22: 3077–3089.

The project is competitively funded through the ‘AFS' stream of the Nottingham BBSRC DTP. Applicants should have, or expect to get, a First Class or Upper Second degree or equivalent in a relevant subject. Further experience, including a Masters degree, is likely to be advantageous. Applications are open to UK + EU residents (EU students will be considered and may be eligible for full funding).

This project is also advertised here.