We are evolutionary geneticists who study (mostly) wild populations. We apply whole genome sequencing and SNP genotyping to understand the architecture and maintenance of genetic variation. Much of the work is done in collaboration with ecologists who collect individual-based life history and morphological data, sometimes in field systems that have been the focus of decades of research.

We are part of the Molecular Ecology Lab in Sheffield, although most of our work is statistical/analytical rather than wetlab. More generally, the Department of Animal & Plant Sciences is a great place for evolutionary genomics, housing the groups of Terry Burke, Roger Butlin, Pascal-Antoine ChristinNicola Nadeau, Alison Wright and Kai Zeng.


Study Systems

We work on the Soay sheep of St Kilda – project info here, mostly in collaboration with Josephine Pemberton and her group in Edinburgh.

We study the great tit population at Wytham Woods, Oxford. The project is run by Ben Sheldon, and we also collaborate on great tit ecological genomics with Kai Zeng (Sheffield), Marcel Visser (Netherlands Institute of Ecology) and Martien Groenen (Wageningen University). Jon coordinates the great tit HapMap project which includes samples from over 20 populations across the species distribution.

In Sheffield, we have worked on the genetics of sperm variation in a long-term (maintained for >20 years) aviary population of zebra finches that was established by Tim Birkhead. Terry Burke also collaborates on this project.

Finally, we work with Tom Tregenza (Exeter, Falmouth Campus) on his Wild Crickets project.


Example publications

Bosse, M, LG Spurgin, VN Laine, EF Cole, JA Firth, P Gienapp, AG Gosler, K McMahon, J Poissant, I Verhagen, MAM. Groenen, K van Oers, BC Sheldon, ME Visser, and J Slate (2017) Recent natural selection causes adaptive evolution of an avian polygenic trait. Science 358:365-368.
Kim, KW, C Bennison, N Hemmings, L Brookes, LL Hurley, SC Griffith, T Burke, TR Birkhead, and J Slate (2017) A sex-linked supergene controls sperm morphology and swimming speed in a songbird. Nature Ecology and Evolution 1:1168-1176.
Mundy, NI, J Stapley, C Bennison, R Tucker, H Twyman, KW Kim, T Burke, TR Birkhead, S Andersson, and J Slate (2016) Red Carotenoid Coloration in the Zebra Finch Is Controlled by a Cytochrome P450 Gene Cluster. Current Biology 26:1435-1440.
SE Johnston, J Gratten, C Berenos, JG Pilkington, TH Clutton-Brock, JM Pemberton & J Slate (2013) Life history trade-offs at a single locus maintain sexually selected genetic variation. Nature 502: 93-95
J Slate (2013). From Beavis to Beak Colour: A simulation study to examine how much QTL mapping can reveal about the genetic architecture of quantitative traits. Evolution 67: 1251-1262
WC Warren, DF Clayton, H Ellegren, AP Arnold & 56 others, J Stapley, J Slate, R Ekblom, T Birkhead, T Burke & 17 Others (2010) The genome of a songbird. Nature 464: 757-762
J Gratten, AJ Wilson, AF McRae, D Beraldi, PM Visscher, JM Pemberton and J Slate (2008) A localized negative genetic correlation constrains microevolution of coat color in wild sheep. Science 319:318-320






Professor Jon Slate
Department of Animal & Plant Sciences
University of Sheffield
S10 2TN