Definition and validation of the epigenetic landscape of avian craniofacial morphogenesis

Supervisors: Jeffrey J. SchoenebeckMegan Davey

Project Description:

The study of chicken embryogenesis was and remains essential to our understanding of vertebrate developmental biology. Unlike placental mammals, chick embryos are easily accessed, manipulated, and studied live in ovo.

Until recently, the shortcoming of the chick model was its lack of genetic tools, an area where mouse models reign supreme. However, with advances in CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing, germ cell culturing, and genomic approaches underpinned by whole genome sequencing, the full capabilities of the chick to increase our understanding of development, evolution, and health are ready to usher in a new renaissance of chick-based research. The chick model will lead to discoveries advancing both animal and human health, poultry welfare, and our understanding of basic biological processes.

The goal of this project is to define and validate noncoding DNA that regulates avian craniofacial morphogenesis and to use this information to develop new lines of gene edited chickens that will empower exploration of craniofacial morphogenesis. This PhD project is cross-disciplinary, requiring the successful candidate to learn and develop skills, as well as pioneer new techniques in areas such as embryology, molecular biology, microscopy, cell culturing, veterinary sciences and whole genome sequence analysis.

This PhD project will be supervised by Drs. Jeffrey Schoenebeck and Megan Davey, bringing together their expertise in craniofacial genetics and genomics, morphology, avian developmental biology, and gene editing1,2 as well as their proven track records in producing high-calibre graduates from the University of Edinburgh’s PhD graduate programme.

The Roslin Institute will serve as the student’s primary base of research, though opportunities to travel for addition training are supported. The Roslin Institute is among the forefront of poultry research and genomics technologies. It is here that the student will encounter a vibrant, international community of like-minded colleagues whose goals are to address the core values of the BBSRC.


 1.    Marchant, T. W. et al. Canine Brachycephaly Is Associated with a Retrotransposon-Mediated Missplicing of SMOC2. Curr. Biol. 27, 1573–1584.e6 (2017).
2.    Stephen, L. A. et al. TALPID3 controls centrosome and cell polarity and the human ortholog KIAA0586 is mutated in Joubert syndrome (JBTS23). Elife 4, e08077 (2015).
If you wish to apply for this project, please check this link and send your application to this email.