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Position Vacant

Dr David I. Gibson D.Gibson at nhm.ac.uk
Tue Oct 10 08:39:47 EST 1995

Postgraduate Research Assistant in Molecular Phylogenetics

Applications are invited for the above post to join Dr. Tim Littlewood on a
project entitled: "The evolution of parasitism in the Platyhelminthes: a
phylogenetic approach using molecules and morphology".  The project is
being funded by the Wellcome Trust as part of their Biodiversity Initiative
and is projected to run for five years.

The post will entail a great deal of laboratory based work involving DNA
extraction, PCR amplification and sequencing but should also allow the
successful applicant to branch into the morphological and analytical
components of the project. The position will be held at The Natural History
Museum (NHM), although the project is jointly sponsored by The Division of
Life Sciences, King's College London. All experimental work will be
conducted in the Experimental Taxonomy Unit (NHM). The Unit is a
well-equipped and long-established molecular facility, complete with
automated sequencing equipment.

The proposed research:

The phylum Platyhelminthes includes numerous, diverse parasitic and
free-living species. Within the flatworms parasitism is believed to have
been a single, major evolutionary event (with few but useful exceptions)
offering us a unique insight into the evolution of parasites and
parasitism. Important parasites include the digenean flukes, cestodes and
monogeneans all of which appear to be more closely related to one another
than their free-living relatives. However, the systematics of the group
remains largely unresolved as morphology alone is incapable of providing
sufficient data for constructing robust phylogenies. In particular,
character loss, apparent convergent evolution and perceived simplicity
amongst the flatworms has made it difficult to find homologous
morphological features in the group. Consequently, without a working
phylogeny, we cannot fully understand the evolution of parasites and
parasitism within the flatworms and their hosts.

This project aims to complement existing phylogenetic data with molecular
sequence information for key taxa. Data from ribosomal RNA genes will
afford a character set independent of morphology. Combined, a "total
evidence" (molecules + morphology) approach will provide the basis with
which to construct a working phylogeny, resolve interrelationships within
and between the 18 or so major clades (depending on the present
classification of choice) and determine morphological and molecular
responses associated with parasitic modes of life. The final molecular +
morphological data set will provide means by which we can determine the
influence of reductive characters on phylogeny reconstruction. Further, by
mapping morphological characters, life-cycles, nutritional strategies, host
numbers, host types and host distributions on to a resolved phylogeny we
will investigate the evolutionary history of the group in terms of
adaptation, adaptive radiation and rates of evolution.

Salary will be in accordance with Scientific Officer Grade
(=A316,451-=A318,120, inc. London weighting) depending on qualifications and
experience. The post is available for a fixed period of up to five years
from 1 January 1996.

Informal enquiries may be addressed to:
Dr. Tim Littlewood, tel: 0171 333 4090; e-mail: dtl at nhm.ac.uk
or Dr. David Rollinson, tel:  0171 938 8887

Applicants should send a detailed CV, covering letter and the names of two
referees to:
Mr. Kevin Hallett, Personnel, The Natural History Museum, Cromwell Rd.,
London SW7 5BD.

(Closing date for applications: 5 November 1995)

Dr David I. Gibson
Parasitic Worms  Division
Department of Zoology                           Try:
The Natural History Museum                  http://www.nhm.ac.uk/
London SW7 5BD
Tel. +44-(0)171-938-9485
Fax. +44-(0)171-938-8754
Internet: dig at nhm.ac.uk

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