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Genetic and ecological bases of shoot branching divergence across Arabidopsis species-wide accessions

This project is closed.

Project summary

St Lucia
Research area
Agricultural, veterinary and food sciences, Biological sciences, Environmental sciences, Information and computing sciences, Mathematical sciences, Physical sciences

Project description

Spatial patterns of genetic variation are shaped by environmental factors, topological features, and dispersal barriers. As a result, we often can identify population genetic structure stratified by geographic locations or ecological niches, the drivers of population isolation by distance or the environment, clinal genetic variation over space in alignment with gradually varying environment gradients, and adaptive genetic variation in relation to environmental variables. At the ecological level, assembly rules uncover the coordination of phenotypic traits along environmental clines. Tradeoffs between traits represent the consequence of environmental filters and reflect adaptation to environmental heterogeneity. For example, three fundamental adaptive strategies are delineated by a CSR theory, that is, Competitors, Stress-tolerators, and Ruderals. As such, ways of genetic and phenotypic assemblage over space and throughout time point to a role for natural selection driven by spatially varying environmental conditions to maintain genetic variation that confers natural variation in phenotypes. In this project, we focus on an important agronomic trait – shoot branching – due to its important contribution to the overall shoot architecture of a plant and being a potential target for yield optimization. We aim to dissect features of the genetic architecture of the trait and to reveal its relationships to environmental conditions. We integrate geographic, environmental, and genomic data from the 1001 Arabidopsis Genomes Project, coupled with the branching phenotype measured in selected accessions and then forecasted for the rest of the 1001 accessions using machine-learning models, to investigate the ecological relevance and genetic underpinnings of branching divergence across the Arabidopsis species-wide accessions. Our study has implications for enhancing our understanding of the genetic and ecological basis of shoot branching divergence and the potential for generating novel knowledge for improving phenotypic predictability.

Research environment

We uphold the highest scientific integrity and rigor while maintaining mutual respect for personal identities. We are committed to creating an inclusive mutually supportive research culture. Our values accentuate integrity, inclusivity, and international excellence.


This project is supported by the Research project scholarship.

This scholarship includes:

  • living stipend of $33,641 per annum tax free (2024 rate), indexed annually
  • tuition fees covered.

This scholarship includes:

  • living stipend of $33,641 per annum tax free (2024 rate), indexed annually
  • tuition fees covered
  • single overseas student health cover (OSHC) for international students.

Learn more about the Research project scholarship.


Preferred educational background

Your application will be assessed on a competitive basis.

We take into account your:

  • previous academic record
  • publication record
  • honours and awards
  • employment history.

A working knowledge of population genetics and evolutionary biology would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

You will demonstrate academic achievement in the field(s) of population genetics, quantitative genomics, evolutionary biology, plant breeding, mathematical or computational biology and the potential for scholastic success.

A background or knowledge of programming language (e.g., R, Python, and MATLAB) is highly desirable.

How to apply

Before you apply

Before submitting an application you should:

  1. check your eligibility for a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
  2. prepare your documentation
  3. contact Dr Yang Liu ( to discuss your interest and suitability
  4. submit your application by 31 March, 2024 31 March, 2024.

When you apply

You apply for this scholarship when you submit an application for your program. You don’t need to submit a separate scholarship application.

In your application ensure that under the ‘Scholarships and collaborative study’ section you select:

  • ‘My higher degree is not collaborative’
  • ‘I am applying for, or have been awarded a scholarship or sponsorship'
  • ‘Other’, then ‘Research Project Scholarship’ and in the ‘Name of scholarship’ field enter SHOOT BRANCHING-LIU.

Apply now