Res Icelandic ptarmigan

NAISS 2023/5-316


NAISS Medium Compute

Principal Investigator:

Jacob Höglund


Uppsala universitet

Start Date:


End Date:


Primary Classification:

10615: Evolutionary Biology

Secondary Classification:

10611: Ecology




The Rock Ptarmigan (Lagopus muta, Montin 1776) is a grouse species with a wide range distributed across the arctic and subarctic northern hemisphere. The research plan set forth here provides an outline describing how the PhD student will both contribute to ongoing work in Rock Ptarmigan ecology and genomics, and also produce research deliverables of independent interest with applicability to research on other species. The project is primarily funded through a previously secured grant of the Icelandic Research Fund. In Iceland, a particularly robust collection of data and tissue has been accumulated for local Rock Ptarmigan made up of approximately 1200 individual birds harvested annually from 2006 to 2018. Additionally, there are currently over 60 years of population census information for the Icelandic Rock Ptarmigan population and almost a century of observational information. Using these data in tandem with other information collected from grouse populations around the northern hemisphere, important questions underlying the species’ ecology, evolutionary history, diet, resistance to toxicity, and population trends can be investigated in depth. It will be the responsibility of the PhD student to learn advanced genomic and bioinformatic techniques and independently to become a new expert in ptarmigan ecology and avian genomics. In this project we will apply an ecogenomic approach, by analysis of genome diversity and gene expression, assessing the association of genetic variants to population cycling or intermediate phenotypes of Rock Ptarmigan. By understanding the intricacies of the Rock Ptarmigan genome, we will be able to understand more about the way that these birds’ genetics play an intersectional role in their ecosystems. Additional routes of advanced inquiry will be designated as the project progresses but may include research into the genes responsible for morphological molt variation between populations, or the introduction of exobiotic genes into the gut for handling toxic plant digestion. The student will publish several research papers to inform the scientific community as new findings are made. Work will take place with an international team with participation and placement occurring between several scientific institutions. The sum whole of this research will enable the PhD student to establish a valuable and necessarily broad skillset for future application to topics in Zoology, Molecular Biology, Ecology, Toxicology, and Bioinformatics. Gaining professional expertise in these topics will allow the student to become a valid participant in the international academic community and enhance their ability to provide lifelong contributions to science.