Reconstructing skull evolution of fossil crown birds

Dodo skull

Skeleton of the extinct Raphus cucullatus (dodo). Collected during the 1860s from the Mascarene Islands in the Indian Ocean.

The project will reconstruct the cranial morphology from micro-CT scans of early crown fossil birds housed in international collections.

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 i.barnes@nhm.ac.uk

Application deadline: 8 January 2018

Research focus

Training

The study of biodiversity is central to the Museum's mission, and the supervisor’s research programme is focused on reconstructing the evolution of morphological diversity through deep time. This project builds on her existing work on living and fossil tetrapods, where a major issue has been the lack of decent material for fossil birds. 

Methodology

In this study, the student will use cutting-edge retrodeformation techniques to reconstruct the cranial morphology from micro-CT scans of early crown fossil birds housed in international collections, conduct high-density 3D morphometric analyses of those fossils, and combine them with existing data from Prof. Goswami’s lab to reconstruct the early evolution of birds and identify the ecological and environmental factors that shaped this highly successful radiation.

The study of biodiversity is central to the Museum's mission, and the supervisor’s research programme is focused on reconstructing the evolution of morphological diversity through deep time. This project builds on her existing work on living and fossil tetrapods, where a major issue has been the lack of decent material for fossil birds. 

Background

Reconstructing the evolution of biodiversity is one of the most fundamental topics in biology, with ramifications for understanding how biodiversity will respond to current threats and climate change. 

Huge improvements in data collection and data analysis in recent years have produced a step change in accuracy of evolutionary rates and identification of factors shaping diversity, in particular through quantifying the complex morphology of organisms. 

Many studies have demonstrated that fossil data significantly improve the accuracy of evolutionary reconstructions; however, several hyperdiverse modern clades, such as birds, lack fossils that are well-preserved in 3-D, hindering their inclusion in these analyses. 

 

Eligibility

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

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