PhD position – evolutionary genetics of poison frog color patterns – North Carolina

Department of Biology, East Carolina University
Greenville, NC
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Graduate Assistantships
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I am searching for a doctoral student to carry out research associated with an NSF-supported project focused on the genetic underpinnings of mimicry and color pattern evolution in a mimetic radiation of poison frogs in Peru (see description below), starting in the fall semester of 2018. The evolution of color pattern diversity in the context of mimicry has been a focus of theoretical and empirical attention, yet knowledge of the genetic basis of this diversity remains limited, especially in vertebrates. This project involves three research groups with complementary skills and realms of expertise in an investigation of the genetic basis and population genomic processes underlying color pattern divergence in the context of mimicry in the Peruvian mimic poison frog, Ranitomeya imitator: Dr. Kyle Summers (East Carolina University), Dr. Rasmus Nielsen (UC Berkeley) and Dr. Matthew MacManes (University of New Hampshire). The project focuses on identifying genetic factors involved in color pattern development and divergence between populations in R. imitator. Several approaches will be used, including investigations of differential gene expression across developmental stages and color pattern morphs using transcriptomics (RNAseq), and the use of genome-wide marker arrays (exome capture sequences) to screen samples collected in the field and enable admixture mapping. We have identified three admixture zones in the mimetic radiation that are appropriate for these analyses. We will also test the association of specific loci putatively affecting color pattern using pedigree analyses of candidate genes, using multigenerational pedigrees from frogs raised in captivity. Molecular probes will be used to investigate the role of candidate genes in the development of color pattern. Finally, we will test specific hypotheses regarding selection and demographic processes in the transition zones and between mimics and models. Together these complementary, mutually reinforcing approaches will begin to reveal the genetic underpinnings and population genomics of color pattern diversity in this mimetic radiation of poison frogs. For more information on recent research on these frogs, please see: Twomey, E., Vestergaard, J.S., Venegas, P., Summers, K. 2016. Mimetic divergence and the speciation continuum in the mimic poison frog Ranitomeya imitator. Am. Nat. 187:205-224. Vestergaard, J.S., Twomey, E., Summers, K., Larsen, R., Nielsen, R. 2015. Number of genes controlling a quantitative trait in a hybrid zone. Proc. Roy. Soc. Lond. B 282:20141950. Twomey, E., Vestergaard, J.S., Summers, K. 2014. Reproductive isolation related to mimetic divergence in the poison frog Ranitomeya imitator. Nature Comm. 5:4749. Stuckert, A., Saporito, R., Venegas, P., Summers, K. 2014. The toxicity of co-mimics in a putatively Müllerian mimetic radiation. BMC Evol. Biol. 14:76.
Desirable qualifications for this position include an interest in the evolutionary biology and genetics of tropical amphibians, and some combination of 1) background in molecular evolutionary genetics, 2) experience working in a molecular genetic laboratory, 3) previous work with amphibians and captive breeding, 4) fieldwork on amphibians (especially in Latin America), 5) programming experience in R, Python and/or UNIX, 6) research experience in genomics. PhD trainees receive full stipends, tuition, and health insurance. Direct support through research assistantships is available for 3 years, followed by support through teaching assistantships (at least 5 years of support in total). The successful applicant will pursue their degree through an interdisciplinary program in the biological sciences (IDPBS: More information about our faculty and program offerings in the Department of Biology is available at ( The department is large and multidisciplinary, with strong research groups in evolution, ecology, behavior and genomics. East Carolina University is located in Greenville, North Carolina, centrally located between Raleigh and the Atlantic Coast. I encourage applications from minorities and members of under-represented groups. Please send a letter detailing your research interests and experience, as well as a current CV (including coursework and grades), and GRE scores (if available) to Kyle Summers ( Please feel free to contact me with questions if you would like further information.
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Kyle Summers
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