Arnaud Gaigher

I have a major interest in the fields related to conservation and evolutionary biology. I am particularly focused on the use of genetics and molecular biology as powerful tools for studying the evolution of species and populations, in particular in a conservation framework.
During this thesis, I will be focused on the genetics of a beautiful bird, the barn owl (Tyto alba), for which there is still much to discover. My work on this species will be structured around two areas of research.
- First, I will be working on the Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) system, whose genes play an essential role in the immune response and display an extraordinary diversity. Thus the MHC appears as a system of choice for studying adaptive genetic variability. With a 454 amplicon sequencing approach, MHC class II B exon 2 and class I exon 3 genes will be sequenced in about 1,400 barn owls sampled throughout Europe and in different years. This is not an easy task. Indeed, although the 454 technology seems to be the best suited sequencing method for studying MHC system, the distinction between true alleles and errors generated during PCR and sequencing can be difficult. After the delicate but necessary sorting phase, the aim will be to assess MHC diversity to study patterns of MHC variation (both spatially and temporally) in this species. In addition, a lot of information related to the individuals fitness is available. It will be interesting to examine the association between these parameters and MHC diversity, for instance between a particular allele, MHC diversity and heterozygosity and a fitness-related trait.
Thus, this research offers interesting perspectives for understanding still debated selection mechanisms that shape MHC diversity.
- In addition, during this thesis I am interested in the worldwide molecular phylogeography of this species (for which samples from around the world have been sampled in museum collections).



Member of Fumagalli group

Biophore - CH-1015 Lausanne
Tel. +41 21 692 41 60
Fax +41 21 692 41 65