Tore Oldeide Elgvin
I'm a PhD student working in the Sparrow group at CEES whose overarching theme is to understand how species arise in nature. More specifically, my work is focused on the genetics of homoploid hybrid speciation. My study organisms are three closely related sparrow species, the house sparrow (Passer domesticus), Spanish sparrow (P. hispaniolensis) and the Italian sparrow (P. italiae). I started working on this species system during my MSc project, and my PhD is thus a continuation of this work. Recently, our group showed that the Italian sparrow is a homoploid hybrid species (same chromosome number as its parents) formed by past hybridization events between the house and Spanish sparrow (Elgvin et al. 2011; Hermansen et al. 2011). This mode of speciation contrasts the more well known process in which populations split and subsequently become new species. Moreover, homoploid hybrid speciation is thought to be very rare in nature, with only a few well documented cases. Thus, investigating how the Italian sparrow originated may give valuable insight on how this rare mode of speciation operates in nature.
More specifically I want to know know investigate the patterns and processes that has been involved when two genomes have been combined (house and Spanish sparrow) and shaped the Italian sparrow. Currently, I'm doing this by utilizing Next Generation Sequence (NGS) data. With the 454 sequencing platform, we have obtained transcriptome sequences from the parental species, the house and Spanish sparrow. With this project, me and my collaborators in the Sparrow group aim to do a transcriptome characterization of the parental species and subsequently comparing these to overlapping sequences in the Italian sparrow. Generally, we are interested patterns of variation and divergence that distinguish the focal species, including fixed differences, signs of selection etc. Since the transcriptome sequences represents the expressed genes in organisms, this investigation may potentially give us insight in functional differences that separate the species.
Recently, the Sparrow group initiated The Sparrow Genome project (in collaboration with Henrik Jensen and his group at NTNU), in which I will be heavily involved during my PhD. The first goal of this project will be to assemble a reference genome of the house sparrow. For this project, we are utilizing the Illumina sequencing platform at the Norwegian Sequencing Centre (NSC). Our sequence strategy includes high coverage Paired End (PE) sequence data and Mate Pair (MP) sequence data (with various insert sizes and coverage). Subsequently, when the draft reference genome has been assembled, the we will do whole genome re-sequencing of focal populations of special interest. The genome project will provide a solid workbench for addressing a number of interesting biological questions in our study system. My PhD work will be heavily involved in this project.
My main supervisor is Prof. Glenn-Peter Sætre, and co-supervisor is Prof. Asbjørn Vøllestad. My position is financed by the Passer sparrow project grant (PI: Glenn-Peter Sætre) from the Norwegian Research Council (NFR).
As part year compulsory work (25%) I am engaged as Science communication adviser at the Department of Biosciences. This work encompasses a range of tasks related to scientific outreach for the general public. Specifically, this includes writing press releases and 'journalistic' stories on new research at the department, documenting research through video and photo, and generally pushing researchers to talk about their science.