Migratory birds: understanding the (epi)genetic architecture of (1) migration // and (2) aging
Migration is ubiquitous in the animal kingdom and central to the life-history adaptations of many animals. At the same time migration is far from being a uniform phenomenon: migratory patterns and strategies vary a lot, not only between major groups of organisms, but also between closely related species or even between neighbouring populations of the very same species.
We use the European blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) as focal study species to understand: What is the genetic basis of migration, and which signaling pathways are associated with variation of the migratory phenotype?
We strive to identify the genetic basis of migratory traits and in order to do so use a highly integrative approach. We combine field work, behaviour, tracking technology, molecular biology, neuroanatomy, evolutionary genomics and bioinformatics to (i) identify the genes behind the components shaping the migratory phenotype in well-characterized migratory songbird species, and (ii) characterize expression profiles and epigenetic markers to identify signaling pathways and the underlying regulatory machinery controlling migration.
(1) One PhD project advertised with a focus on migratory genetics within our group is ideal for an enthusiastic student with a strong background in evolutionary and/or molecular biology, who is motivated and eager to extend on analytical bioinformatics and programming skills. A background and previous experience in avian fieldwork, brain anatomy, and/or handling of high-throughput sequencing data are strong assets but not mandatory.
(2) We also offer a second independent project on another study system, the Common tern (Sterna hirundo), with a focus on understanding the (epi)genetic basis of transgenerational age effects. Common terns are a great system to investigate this on the molecular level, as senescence in these birds was recently found to be established as the production of offspring with low lifetime reproductive success. However, the underlying molecular mechanisms are unclear. Here we are currently using (epi)genome-wide high-throughput approaches and we are looking for a similarly motivated and educated student as described above to join this newly established project, that is part of a collaboration with the Institute of Avian Research Wilhelmshaven.