Genomics of Museum bumblebees


Bumblebee Bombus terrestris

The project will investigate how the bumblebee population structure responds to alterations in land-use and the strength and focus of natural selection across the genome.

The studentship starts on the Oct 1 2018 and is funded by NERC. 

How to apply

Read the eligibility criteria and application guidance below, then send your application to

Application deadline: 8 January 2018

Research focus

The aims of the project is to use genomic analyses of museum specimens to infer not only how  population structure responds to alterations in land-use, but also the strength and focus of natural selection across the genome.


The successful candidate will join a group of researchers, based at the Natural History Museum, who specialise in the recovery and analysis of ancient DNA, and will have the opportunity to interact with colleagues at Imperial's Silwood Park campus, and in museums across the UK.

They will have a demonstrated interest in the application of molecular techniques to ecological and evolutionary problems.


We have already initiated this approach, as part of an ongoing project based between the Museum and Imperial to investigate several UK bumblebee species.

The proposed studentship will extend that work, both through investigation of other pollinator species, and by developing alternative methods and analyses for museum insect collections.


Over the last 100 years, the UK has experienced significant changes in land-use, with subsequent loss of “natural” habitats. This pattern is associated with high losses of biodiversity, and declines of insect pollinators - such as bees ­ are of particular concern. Bees are central in maintaining floral health and diversity, and as crop pollinators they have a key role in economically important agricultural activities.

In order to better understand future threats, and develop possible solutions, it is clearly important to understand how historical changes in farming practice and land-use have affected insect pollinator populations. However, archival observation data on historical insect pollinator abundance is limited in scope, and much of it was collected in an unstandardized manner. It is, therefore, difficult to estimate the extent to which past changes in bumblebee populations are linked to past ecological change.


To be eligible for a full award a student must have:

  • Settled status in the UK, meaning they have no restrictions on how long they can stay.
  • Been ‘ordinarily resident’ in the UK for 3 years prior to the start of the studentship.
    This means they must have been normally residing in the UK (apart from temporary or occasional absences).
  • Not been residing in the UK wholly or mainly for the purpose of full-time education (This does not apply to UK or EU nationals).

How to apply

Applications for the PhD are processed through the Natural History Museum.

To apply please send the following documents to the Postgraduate Office at 

  • Curriculum vitae.
  • Covering letter outlining your interest in the PhD position, relevant skills training, experience and qualifications for the research, and a statement of how this PhD project fits your career development plans.
  • Names of two academic referees.

The deadline for applications in 8 January 2018.

Any questions?

If you have any questions about the project please contact

Main supervisor: Prof Ian Barnes


The Natural History Museum

Main supervisor: Prof Ian Barnes

Co-supervisor: Dr Selina Brace 

Imperial College London

Dr Rich Gill

Science and Solutions for a Changing Planet (SSCP) doctoral training partnership

This is a joint project between The Science and Solutions for a Changing Planet (SSCP) Doctoral Training Partnership at Imperial College London and The Natural History Museum.

Funded by 

Submit your application