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PhD Studentship Imperial College London



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PhD Studentship Imperial College London

Location: Imperial College at Silwood Park Campus, Ascot

Eligibility: See NERC eligibility (restricted to UK residents/citizens)

Supervision: Dr Vincent Savolainen (Imperial College London & Royal
Botanic Gardens, Kew), in collaboration with Dr Bill Baker (Royal Botanic
Gardens, Kew), Dr Tim Barraclough (Imperial College), Dr Darren Crayn
(Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney), and Mr Ian Hutton (Lord Howe Island)

The origin of species diversity has challenged biologists for over two
centuries. Charles Darwin recognized that allopatry, species divergence
resulting from geographical isolation, is a driving force of speciation,
but he also thought populations could diverge into separate species in the
absence of geographical isolation, a mechanism now called sympatric
speciation. Last year, Savolainen and colleagues provided complete
evidence for sympatric speciation in a case study of two species of palm
(Howea) on a remote oceanic island, Lord Howe Island (LHI), Australia
(Savolainen & al. 2006. Sympatric speciation in palms on an oceanic
island. Nature 441: 210-2133). Nature�s own coverage of this paper claimed
that [Lord Howe] Island hosts double boost for evolutionary theory� and
that experts say �the big question now is whether sympatric speciation is
widespread or rareï. Here the investigation will be broadened to other
vascular plants of LHI with the aim to evaluate whether this evolutionary
phenomenon is more common than previously thought.

LHI is a minute subtropical island of less than 12 km2, situated 580 km
off the eastern coast of Australia. The island was formed by volcanic
activity 6.4-6.9 my ago. LHI and thus it is an ideal site on which to test
the four criteria for sympatric speciation: 1) species sympatry, 2) sister
relationships, 3) reproductive isolation, and 4) that an earlier
allopatric phase is highly unlikely. Numerous plant genera, like Howea,
are represented by more than one endemic species on the island, which may
well be products of sympatric speciation. The student will look at new
pairs/groups of endemics:

(i) The student will combine existing DNA sequence data from GenBank with
new data collected and produced during the project to reconstruct
evolutionary relationships for five pairs/groups of endemic taxa.
(ii) During fieldwork, the student will also document species sympatry and
habitat variables at a fine scale.
(iii) The signature of the modes of speciation will be studied with AFLP
genome scans

URGENT To apply: Please send a letter of motivation, full CV and contact
details of two referees as a single pdf file to [email protected]
asap. For informal enquiries, please email VS or call on 020 8332 5366. We
should hire a student this month (September).

[email protected]

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