Monday, May 9, 2011

PhD Opportunity in Marine Invertebrate Biodiversity


University of Guelph (with West Coast DFO Research Placement)

We are seeking an enthusiastic Ph.D. student with an interest in applied evolutionary genetics and taxonomy to conduct a DNA barcoding study on marine invertebrates as part of a large multi-disciplinary network conducting studies on aquatic invasive species (Canadian Aquatic Invasive Species Network, CAISN). This barcoding project is a collaborative one, involving researchers at the University of Guelph, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and University of Windsor.

Many global invaders are marine invertebrates such as crustaceans, molluscs, and ascidians that often present taxonomic challenges, especially in early life history stages. DNA barcoding has been identified as a robust, widely applicable method that could serve as an international standard for the identification of aquatic invasive species on a global scale as it has practical advantages over classical taxonomic methods. However, its utility for this purpose needs to be validated—especially when invaders and co-occurring native species are very similar—and its usefulness is a function of the availability of validated DNA barcoding datasets.

The successful candidate will apply DNA barcoding methods to generate essential baseline data on invertebrate biodiversity in Canada’s coastal waters and will then evaluate the utility of this approach for invasive species identification and detection. This project may also involve generating molecular phylogenies based on multiple nuclear markers where needed to resolve taxonomic uncertainties of important marine invaders. Species identifications will be obtained in collaboration with taxonomic experts, and the relationship between cryptic species diversity and body size will be explored using the resulting datasets.

We are looking for a highly motivated candidate who is interested in playing a substantial role in developing novel research directions for this project, using the sequence data to address exciting questions in ecology and/or evolution. Potential research topics include investigating the phylogenetic distribution of “invasiveness”; analyzing molecular evolutionary rates across different taxa; or comparing patterns of genetic diversity, species diversity, species complementarity, and invasive species prevalence among regions.

The student will be co-advised by Dr. Sarah Adamowicz (University of Guelph) and Dr. Cathryn Abbott (Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada) and will also collaborate with other DFO and university researchers. The successful candidate will be based at the Pacific Biological Station in Nanaimo, B.C. for a portion of the studentship. This position provides the opportunity to conduct novel research in invasion biology, ecology, and evolution and will serve as an outstanding training ground for those interested in governmental, academic, or private-sector careers in biology and environmental science.

Stipend funding is available at NSERC network rates. Canadian citizens and permanent residents are preferred as there are no project funds for international student fees. The project start date is to be between May 2011 and January 2012.  To be considered for this position please send your CV, a brief summary of your research interests, and at least two references to

Cathryn Abbott, Ph.D.
Research Scientist
Aquatic Animal Health
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Pacific Biological Station
3190 Hammond Bay Road
Nanaimo, BC, V9T 6N7 Canada
Telephone: +1 250 756 3364
FAX: +1 250 756 7053

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