top of page

Sean Stankowski

Research Fellow


About me

In January 2024, I will be moving to the University of Sussex where I will start a research group in the department of Ecology and Evolution.


I am currently a postdoctoral fellow in Nick Barton's Group at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria. I also serve as a committee chair of the Network for the Integration of Speciation Research, a Speciation Topic Network funded by the European Society for Evolutionary Biology (ESEB) that aims to make speciation research a more synthetic and inclusive field.


My research addresses fundamental questions at the intersection of ecology and evolution. I am especially interested in understanding (i) the connections between genotype, development, phenotype, ecology, and fitness, and, (ii) how ecological and evolutionary processes drive the origin of new species. I address these questions using a wide variety of methods and approaches, but I specialize in the analysis of empirical genomic datasets from natural populations. 

  • Black Twitter Icon
Screen Shot 2023-07-13 at 11.32.09 AM.png

contact: sean.stankowski'at' 


Funded PhD position available!

Revealing the genomic basis of reproductive mode evolution and speciation in Littorina snails

Start date: September 2024; Application deadline: 28 February 2024 23:45 (GMT)

We are seeking an enthusiastic and motivated PhD student to study the links between reproductive mode evolution and speciation in intertidal snails from the genus Littorina.

The process of speciation involves the build-up of isolating barriers that restrict gene exchange between populations. Although barriers to gene flow are critical to divergence and species coexistence, we rarely understand the traits and loci that underpin strong isolation.

The aim of this project is to understand how differences in female reproductive mode contribute to strong isolation between closely-related species of intertidal snail. In the UK and Europe, a live-bearing species of periwinkle (Littorina saxatilis) coexists with egg-laying species (Littorina compressa and Littorina arcana). A lack of hybrids between sympatric egg-layers and live-bearers indicates that the barrier to gene flow between them is very strong.

Recent work has revealed many candidate regions of genome that underpin the difference in reproductive mode. In this project, you will use a new reference genomes, new and existing genomic data, and cutting-edge methods to determine if mode-associated loci also act as barriers to gene flow. Specific objectives include: (1) to more precisely determine the number and genomic distribution of loci associated with the difference in reproductive mode; (2) to determine if reproductive mode acts a barrier by (a) identifying barrier loci and (b) testing for overlap with reproductive mode-associated loci; and (3) to reconstruct the demographic history of divergence to reveal help us understand when and how barriers to gene flow evolved. The succesfull candidate will be encouraged to take the project in directions that excite them most.

Visit the life sciences PhD website for more information, and please contact me if you have any questions or would like to discuss the position further. 

Research projects


Causes of fitness variation 

Why do some individuals have more offspring than others? We are combining genomic data, detailed measurements of phenotype and environment and pedigree information to answer this question in a snapdragon hybrid zone. 

Screen Shot 2021-02-27 at 11.50.42 AM.png

Origins of innovation

How do astounding new abilities seemingly evolve from nowhere? I am using a recent transition from egg-laying to live-bearing in Littorina snails as a model for studying the genetic basis of new innovations.


Genomics of speciation

How do patterns of genetic variation  evolve during the speciation process? Focusing on monkeyflowers, I studied the way that genomic signatures of speciation evolve across space, time and ecology. 


Predictability of adaptation

How predictable are evolutionary outcomes? I studied a radiation of Rhagada land snails to determine whether populations adapt to similar environments by undergoing the same morphological change. 

bottom of page