Loeske Kruuk Group

PhD and postdoc opportunities

Information on opportunities to join the group, including PhD funding for 2024.

meerkat group

PhD 2024

PhD funding available for a four-year project starting in autumn 2024. Below are details of a possible PhD project on meerkats, but I'm also happy to discuss other ideas for projects.

Genomic analyses of inbreeding and inbreeding depression in meerkats

Cooperatively-breeding species living in family groups have high potential for inbreeding, or mating between relatives. Inbreeding will have adverse effects on fitness if there is inbreeding depression in the population, but, conversely, it can also have inclusive fitness benefits as it will increase the reproductive success of relatives. Despite the importance of these issues for mating patterns and population dynamics, the extent and the implications of inbreeding in populations of wild cooperative mammals are currently not well understood.

This PhD project will investigate the genetic architecture of inbreeding depression in meerkats, a cooperatively-breeding social mammal, using an intensive long-term (30 year) study of a population in the Kalahari, SA. Previous pedigree-based analyses of the meerkat population indicated frequent inbreeding and also inbreeding depression (Nielsen et al. 2012). This PhD will use the previous work as a foundation for analyses combining individual life-history, morphology and behaviour data with a newly-available very high resolution data-set of imputed SNP genotypes. Some of the questions to be explored are:

  • How does the social environment affect inbreeding, inbreeding depression and inbreeding avoidance in this group-living species?
  • Can genomic measures of inbreeding and of inclusive fitness illuminate the selection pressures on inbreeding?
  • What is the genetic architecture of inbreeding depression? In particular, what is the landscape of runs of homozygosity, does mutation load increase with haplotype age, and is there evidence of lethal mutations in this population?

The project will involve extensive statistical analysis of the meerkat life-history and genomic data. Suitable applicants need to be highly motivated with a strong academic track record. Full training in all techniques will be provided, but background experience in evolutionary ecology, genetics, statistics and/or bioinformatics is desirable.

Our research group works on a range of different questions about the evolutionary ecology of wild animal populations. We are a friendly interactive group, and the Institute of Ecology and Evolution in the School of Biological Sciences provides an outstanding research environment for postgrad research, with a thriving community of PhD students and postdoctoral fellows from around the world. Edinburgh is also a beautiful city to live in. 

The project is part of a collaboration with the Universities of Zurich and Cambridge, and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. For more information on the meerkat study (and cute meerkat pictures), see:



Funding and how to apply

The studentship is fully-funded for four years through a Royal Society grant, starting autumn 2024. It is open to UK applicants and some candidates with pre-settled or settled status only (sorry it's not international – I don’t make the rules.... more details here).

** Interested applicants should contact me (Loeske.Kruuk@ed.ac.uk) first, with: (i) a CV; (ii) a one-page letter outlining your research interests and why you want to do this PhD; (iii) names of two academic referees. Please do this *before* applying through Edinburgh’s Online Application system.

The School of Biological Sciences is committed to Equality & Diversity: https://www.ed.ac.uk/biology/equality-and-diversity

Closing date for applications: Monday 26th Feb 2024.


study species

Postdoc opportunities

I don’t have any postdoc opportunities at present, but I am always interested to hear from people who would like to apply for an independent research fellowship to work in the group.

Contact Loeske Kruuk