Fully funded PhD studentship in canine genetics: Linking phenotypes with genotypes for canine chemosensory perception

School of Life Sciences, University of Lincoln, UK

We are seeking to recruit a Science graduate with MSc or a good BSc degree (or equivalent) for a project on genetics of canine chemosensory perception, starting in October 2016. Experience in molecular genetics, bioinformatics and/or behavioural research methods will be seen as an advantage. This is a fully-funded position with a stipend of £14,124 per annum for three years for both home and international students. The project will be supervised by a team of researchers with complementary expertise in evolutionary genetics (Malgorzata Pilot, primary supervisor), veterinary behavioural medicine (Daniel Mills) and molecular neurobiology (Humberto Gutierrez).

This project will address a fundamental question in chemosensory system evolution concerning the trade-off between olfaction (sense of smell) and vomeronasal sensing (detection of emotionally salient chemosignals), and at the same time contribute to improving efficiency of selection of dogs for detection work (e.g. explosives, drugs). Olfactory receptors (OR) and vomeronasal receptors (V1R) provide systems to detect molecules of odorants and chemicals that mediate pheromone perception, respectively. There is growing evidence on functional and evolutionary interactions between these two systems, but this has not been assessed yet at an intra-specific level. The aim of this PhD project is to compare OR and V1R repertoires and chemosensory perception abilities in different groups of dogs, including breeds currently used for scent detection and breeds considered as poor sniffers, and in dogs’ wild ancestors, grey wolves. The project will involve the analysis of the complete set of OR and V1R genes using NGS methods, behavioural experiments to test odour and pheromone perception performance, and the analysis of genotype-phenotype interactions.

The student will be supervised by an interdisciplinary team with complementary expertise in evolutionary genetics and genomics, molecular neurobiology, neuronal cell signalling, olfaction and pheromone detection, veterinary behavioural medicine, and behaviour of domestic and wild canids. Therefore, the student will have an opportunity to obtain a broad range of research skills, and develop a unique interdisciplinary research profile. The student will be also given opportunities to attend external courses and workshops, and international conferences. The School of Life Sciences provides a great research environment and has a large international community of postgraduate students.

To apply, send a CV and cover letter to Malgorzata Pilot (mpilot@lincoln.ac.uk) by 17 April 2016, 11 pm of UK time. You may also contact Malgorzata Pilot for informal enquiries. Shortlisted applicants will be invited for interview.