Beating the heat? Population genomics of climate change in Australian birds

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CBA-supported Honours project (2018/9)

Understanding how communities of organisms adapt to changes in climate has become an imperative challenge for conservation. However, integrative studies liking individual physiology and selection with population demography and phenotype remain few.

There is abundant evidence that natural populations are affected by current climate change, but demonstrations of how climate affects individual fitness, and subsequent links with population demography, remain surprisingly rare. Most studies investigating these links have focused on phenological shifts and much less is known about morphological change, despite growing evidence for pervasive shifts in the body size of organisms as a response to climate change

This project will build on recent and ongoing work which has documented morphological responses by birds to temperature, namely through changes in body size, with direct measures of selection through changes in allele frequency, as measured through historical collections.

The project aims to develop a cost-effective sequencing strategy that allows measuring changes in allele frequency across tens of different bird species over space and time, including hundreds of samples from the extensive tissue collections at CSIRO and ongoing field work. This should allow us to (a) infer changes in demographic parameters as a function of changes in climate, and (b) potentially identify individual loci that respond to temperature.

Beyond linking phenotype, demography and selection with climate change in birds, this project should also provide a framework for other large-scale multi-species studies of adaptation and demography.

This project is an exciting opportunity to work across three world-class research institutions:

The successful candidate will receive a generous $5,000 stipend, along with excellent support for research and travel throughout the project.


Please get touch with Sasha Mikheyev if you would like to apply and/or receive more information. Information on Honours at RSB can be found here

Updated:  27 May 2018/Responsible Officer:  Director/Page Contact:  Coordinator