Identification and analysis of speciation genes in island plants

Flora of Tenerife

Flora of Tenerife

This project will analyse speciation genomics in a plant genus found in a wide variety of habitats throughout the Canary Islands.

The studentship is part of the Southampton Partnership for Innovative Training of Future Investigators Researching the Environment (SPITFIRE) funded by NERC and starts 1 October 2018. 

Apply for this course

Read the eligibility criteria and application guidance below, then apply via the Spitfire Online Application Service.

Application deadline: 5 January 2018

Research focus

Several species are endemic to the Canary Islands, showing ecological speciation (the origin of species by adaptation to novel environments) within and between islands. A reference genome is being assembled and annotated. This SPITFIRE project will generate and analyse sequencing data from multiple individuals of all the endemic species.

The project's specific objectives are to:

  • carry out phylogenetic analyses of the dynamics of speciation, including the role of introgression in speciation
  • measure divergent adaptation between species through a reciprocal transplant experiment on Tenerife
  • identify candidate genes underlying ecological speciation
  • determine the function of a subset of these candidate genes using transgenics


In the current genomics revolution we are now in a position to investigate how mutation, selection and gene flow contribute to phenotypic evolution and the origin of species.

An excellent scenario in which to study this is the origin of species that are adapted to divergent altitudes, where steep selection gradients vary over short geographic distance. By analysing genetic variation throughout related species' genomes, we can pinpoint genes that correspond to reproductive isolation or ecological differentiation.


This project is open to applicants who meet the SPITFIRE eligibility and other exceptional applicants.

SPITFIRE seeks excellent prospective research students regardless of their particular scientific background. We aim to recruit the best students rather than to fill particular projects. We put a huge amount of effort into the recruitment process to meet this objective. 

Minimum Academic Eligibility Criteria: 

  • BSc/MSci 2:1
  • and/or Masters (MSc or MRes) at Merit/Distinction level (>60%).
  • and/or evidence of significant relevant professional experience equivalent to Masters level.

How to apply

Apply using the Spitfire Online Application Service, please include:

  • A short statement of your research interests and rationale for your choice of project(s) - in the Personal Statement section of the application form
  • Curriculum vitae - giving details of your academic record and stating your research interests.
  • Names of two current academic referees - with an institutional email addresses in the Reference section of the application form. On submission of your online application your referees will be automatically emailed requesting they send a reference to us directly by email.
  • Academic transcripts and IELTS/TOEFL certificate if applicable.

As far as possible please upload all documents in pdf format.

Interview dates

For successful candidates are:

  • Thursday 22 February 2018
  •  Friday 23 February 2018
  • Thursday 1 March 2018
  • Friday 2 March 2018

Please note they are all day events and will be allocated based on interview panel availability.

General enquiries should be directed to the SPITFIRE Team on

The deadline for applications is 5 January 2018.

Any questions ?

You are encouraged to contact potential supervisors by email to discuss project-specific aspects of the proposed research at an early stage.

If you have any questions about the project please contact

Main supervisor: Dr Mark Chapman


University of Southampton

Main supervisor: Dr Mark Chapman

Natural History Museum

Co-supervisor: Dr Mark Carine

Southampton Partnership for Innovative Training of Future Investigators Researching the Environment

This a joint PhD training partnership between the Natural History Museum and SPITFIRE a NERC Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) creating an innovative multi-disciplinary experience for the effective training of future leaders in environmental science, engineering, technology development, business, and policy.

Funded by 

Submit your application