Seeking an MSc student | for fully funded research

PROJECT | Functional differences in southern right whale genomes linked to population structure and foraging traditions

General information

Principal supervisor
Dr Emma Carroll (University of Auckland)

Associate Professor Rochelle Constantine (University of Auckland)
Professor Oscar Gaggiotti (University of St Andrews) 
Dr Alana Alexander (University of Otago)

This MSc is fully funded for one year of research, covering both domestic student fees and a stipend of $17,000 (NZD) for one year.

Starting date | 1 March 2019.

What are the functional differences at the genome level between southern right whales:

  1. In different wintering grounds and
  2. That forage on different prey species or regions?

Project description

Southern right whales are a large baleen whale species that have undergone a dramatic population bottleneck due to historical whaling and are now recovering in parts of their historical range. 

The species shows typical baleen whale migratory patterns, moving between winter breeding and socialising grounds and summer feeding grounds.

There is genetic and stable isotope evidence that this migratory fidelity shapes population structure across the species’ distribution. In particular, this behavioural mechanism, in combination with historical environmental processes, is hypothesised to have led to significant genetic differentiation between recovering wintering grounds.

Here we seek a MSc student to undertake the first survey of genomic data to look for functional genetic differences between southern right whale wintering grounds and between foraging ground traditions. 

The research project will be based on the analysis of already-generated, ddRAD and whole genome data and will use genome scan methods to detect regions of the genome that show differences. 

There is no fieldwork component to this project.

Candidate requirements

We seek an enthusiastic, motivated candidate with a genetic/genomic, bioinformatics or molecular ecology background and knowledge of population genetic theory.

The ideal candidate would also have experience with coding, or otherwise being willing to learn, for example, python, R, and/or bash scripting. 

We encourage applications students from under-represented groups in STEM (e.g. Māori, Pasifika, lower socio-economic status students, first generation university students, women).

Entry requirements | Either BSC(Hons) with a GPA of at least 4 or a PGDipSci in Biological Sciences (for specific PGDipSci requirements please email).

Southern right whale (Auckland Islands Research Team 2009, University of Auckland).
Southern right whale (Auckland Islands Research Team 2009, University of Auckland).

For further information and to apply

Prospective applicants are encouraged to contact Dr Emma Carroll to discuss the project.