Telomeres (the ends of chromosomes) become shorter with increasing age. There is increasing evidence that telomere shortening reflects senescence and thus functions as a biomarker of biological aging. I study telomere shortening in great and blue tits on Vlieland. Family trees are well known, yielding high power to detect heritable components in variation in telomere length and dynamics. Quantifying the contribution of genetics to telomere dynamics is of interest, because it will determine the response to selection and eventually evolutionary change.
The past four years we collected blood samples of the complete population, which are the basis of an interesting master’s student project. In the project you will analyze the samples, so experience with molecular techniques can be gained. These analyses have to be done in the laboratory of the University of Groningen, a nice opportunity to have a look at another department. Second, you will estimate heritability based on the extensive pedigree of the Vlieland population. Here you will learn to use so called “animal models” in a Bayesian statistics framework.
The project is not limited by a breeding season but can be started any time until January 2015. This is quite a technical project, but if that is exactly what you are looking for to learn please contact me: