PhD position available in New Zealand – Kaikoura region abalone (paua) 
population genetics based on GBS-derived SNPs

The position - A 3-year PhD position is available in the laboratory of Prof. 
Jonathan Gardner (Victoria University of Wellington, NZ), working in 
conjunction with Dr. Tom McCowan (Paua Industry Council, NZ) and Rob Elshire 
(The Elshire Group, NZ). The PhD position has a start date of early/mid 2019 or 
soon thereafter.
The project - Our group has received full research-only funding from Seafood 
Innovations Limited for this paua (abalone – Haliotis iris) population genetics 
SNPs project. 

The November 2016 Kaikoura earthquake had devastating effects on paua (abalone) 
populations resulting in the ongoing closure of the fishery for this locally 
important species. The catch reductions resulting from the closure are worth 
approximately $3 million annually to the quota holders, as well as loss of 
customary and recreational fishing opportunities. It is critical that best 
available information is used to inform management decisions about when and at 
what level this fishery is re-opened to ensure its future sustainability. 
Research programs to monitor both adult and juvenile paua recovery are 
currently being undertaken to inform management decisions. A critical gap in 
the current monitoring is an understanding of where the new recruits come from 
that contribute to population recovery and the spatial scales that are 
biologically relevant for future management. 

Development of next-generation molecular markers called SNPs (single nucleotide 
polymorphisms) for paua and subsequent genetic analyses will enable a greater 
understanding of the patterns and processes for paua population recovery. The 
recent development of genotyping-by-sequencing (GBS) means that SNP development 
is achievable, even for “non-model” species such as paua. Population–specific 
genetic diversity will be used to quantify the magnitude of genetic bottlenecks 
in northern South Island paua populations resulting from the earthquake, and in 
neighbouring populations outside the affected area. Analyses across different 
cohorts will enable sources of recruitments to be identified from within and 
beyond the affected region. Together these analyses will assist in reducing the 
risk in decision making around the appropriate levels and timing for the 
fishery to be re-opened, to recover commercial losses from the fishery closure 
and to provide for sustainable recreational and customary fishing.

The timing - We are looking for an outstanding candidate whom we can support 
through the VUW PhD scholarship application scheme, to ensure that the person 
secures a stipend and full fees remission. The next round of VUW PhD 
scholarship applications closes on 1st March 2019, so we aim to identify 
someone before that date.

The ideal candidate – We are looking for a student with a background in 
population genetics and/or bioinformatics and an interest in applying SNPs to a 
marine invertebrate coastal fishery. Because we will need to support the 
candidate through the VUW PhD scholarship application process we need an 
academically strong candidate (GPA of >85%). We will give preference to 
candidates with a Masters level degree and also with previous experience of 
working with GBS and/or SNPs data sets.

This PhD position is open to all nationalities (i.e., the successful applicant 
does not have to be a NZ citizen). However, an international student (i.e., 
non-NZ and non-Australian) will require a NZ student visa to be allowed to 
study in NZ. In the normal course of events this is not a problem given that 
the student in question will be supported by VUW. But the visa application 
process can take several weeks to a few months. We understand this, and this is 
not a problem. The actual start date is therefore negotiable if the student is 
“international” and requires a student visa.

For candidates whose first language is not English, a TOEFL or equivalent exam 
pass is required.
The work location – Most of the 3 year PhD position will be based in 
Wellington, but there will be an opportunity to work with Rob Elshire in 
Palmerston North, which is about 2 hours’ drive north of Wellington. On a day 
to day basis the successful candidate will be based at Victoria University of 
Wellington. The NZ Paua Industry Council (PIC) is also based in Wellington. An 
opportunity exists to visit the field sites and to help PIC divers collect paua 

For general enquiries please email –

Applications – Applications from suitably qualified individuals should be 
submitted to, before the closing date of 31st 
January 2019. Applications should consist of:
A cover letter outlining why you are interested in the position and how you 
meet the candidate selection criteria (Masters level degree preferred; 
experience with GBS and/or SNPs; GPA of > 85%; English language test results if 
English is not your first language).
A full CV, including evidence of any published papers or reports.
A copy of your most up to date University transcripts showing evidence of 
degrees awarded, grades for individual courses taken, and an assessment of your 
Names and email addresses of two referees who may be approached to provide 
letters of support for your application. Your referees should be familiar with 
you and with your research career.

Further general information
Victoria University of Wellington -
VUW Scholarships - 
International students, studying at VUW, Wellington -
Jonathan Gardner, Victoria University of Wellington

Tom McCowan, Paua Industry Council NZ and also 

Rob Elshire, Director, The Elshire Group Ltd.

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