Skip to main content
School of Biological and Behavioural Sciences

Adaptation to environmental change

Supervisor: Professor Richard Nichols

Project description

It might seem relatively simple to identify the key genomic changes in a threatened species, as they responded to the arrival of pathogens or to a change in climate - because modern genomic information is so comprehensive, and the current challenges to endangered species are so severe (imposing strong selection). However, the huge amount of genomic data that we can now obtain, proves to be a mixed blessing.  Many of the changes in the genome are the result of blind chance - producing changes through time, and from one population to another.  These differences can be readily confused with the key changes underlying adaptive evolution. This project will develop methods to differentiate between these two types of pattern, making use of existing datasets from surveys conducted for conservation and agricultural projects. It will suit a student from a biological background with an interest in mathematical modelling and statistics, or from a more quantitative background with an interest in genomic data.

Facilities and training

Through the course of the project, the student will gain expertise in genomic and population genetic analysis. He/she will have the opportunity to actively collaborate in projects within and outside the research group, both at a national and international level. The studentship also provides opportunities to develop other skills essential for career progression including but not limited to time management, project management, presentation skills and preparation of research articles.

Queen Mary University of London is a member of the Russell Group and is one of the leading research-focused institutions in the UK, with a large number of international students and staff. All PhD students and post-doctoral researchers are part of the QMUL Doctoral College, which provides support with high-quality training and career development activities. The School of Biological & Chemical Sciences offers a highly interdisciplinary research environment with state-of-the-art facilities, and is home to a number of research groups with core interests in chromosome biology and cell division. Prof Nichols group provides a supportive environment with members from across the world, and well-funded research environment, with opportunities for networking both within and outside the institution.

Eligibility and applying

Applications are invited from outstanding candidates who should have or, expect to receive a first or upper-second class honours degree in an area relevant to the project (e.g. Biology - particularly quantitative sub disciplines such as evolutionary and population genetics, biological computing or biomathematics, Statistics, Applied Probability, Bioinformatics). A high degree of motivation, and excellent communication and organisational skills are essential.

Interested candidates are welcome to contact Prof Nichols at  Please include your CV, motivation letter and contact details of at least two academic referees.


  • Price & al Effects of historic and projected climate change on the range and impacts of an emerging wildlife disease Global change biology DOI: 10.1111/gcb.14651
  • Stocks & al Genomic basis of European ash tree resistance to ash dieback fungus bioRxiv doi: 10.1101/626234v1
  • Verity & Nichols,Estimating the Number of Subpopulations (K) in Structured Populations doi: 10.1534/genetics.115.180992

See also

Back to top