Genomics of Animal Communication

Please note that this position has been filled.

The relative contribution of divergent natural selection and sexual selection on communication signals in the evolution of reproductive isolation is a central question in biology. Progress is limited by poor knowledge of how divergent communication signals originate at the genetic, cellular, and morphological levels, as well as difficulty connecting population level processes prior to speciation with the macroevolutionary patterns of diversity observed after speciation is completed. The more than 200 nominal species of mormyrids are ideally suited for circumventing such problems, producing easily measured and quantified electric discharge signals (EODs), which have a discrete anatomical and physiological basis. EOD signals are typically species-specific and have been demonstrated to be a necessary component of courtship behavior, particularly for a rapidly evolved “species flock” of mormyrids in the genus Paramormyrops. The Electric Fish Lab at Michigan State University (http://efish.zoology.msu.edu) has recently focused on linking these macroevolutionary patterns of electric signal diversity to population-level processes. We have identified a key species to use newly developed techniques in evolutionary genomics to identify genes responsible for macroevolutionary patterns of electric signal diversity, critical in the speciation process.

Ideal candidates for this position are high achieving, creative, and independent. Training will combine cutting edge techniques in genomics, bioinformatics molecular biology and animal behavior. Michigan State University (MSU) is a world-class research university, providing world-class computing and genomics resources. Set in the college town of East Lansing, the area features a low cost of living as well as ideal surroundings for nature lovers and sports fanatics alike. Prospective applicants can be supported through several interdepartmental graduate programs, including a top-ranked program in Ecology, Evolutionary Biology and Behavior (http://eebb.msu.edu), as well as genetics (http://genetics.msu.edu). Students will be encouraged to participate in a one-of-a-kind NSF-sponsored BEACON center for the study of evolution in action (http://beacon-center.org), for which MSU is the host institution. Successful candidates will be supported through a combination of research assistantships and teaching assistantships, and highly qualified may be eligible for additional support through competitive fellowships at the University level.

Applications to MSU either graduate program in Biomolecular Science or Zoology are due December 1st, 2014. Interested candidates are strongly encouraged to send inquiries in advance of this deadline to Dr. Jason Gallant (jgallant@msu.edu) for more information concerning this position, as well as guidance on the most appropriate graduate program to apply through.

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