The Johnston Lab

Screenshot 2021-03-18 170807              Lab Group Photo, March 2021

The Johnston Lab is based at the Institute of Evolutionary Biology at the University of Edinburgh. Our research interests centre on using genomic information to understand selection and evolution in wild and domesticated populations. We answer questions on sexual selection, immunity and recombination using genomic data collected from various vertebrate species, including sheep, red deer, Atlantic salmon and house sparrows.


August 2022: John McAuley represented the group at the European Society of Evolutionary Biology conference in Prague – his poster on recombination rate variation in house sparrows was won an “Outstanding” award, meaning it was in the top 10% of all posters at the conference. Well done John!

May 2022: Dr Cathrine Brekke successfully defended her PhD on the genetic basis of recombination rate variation in domesticated species at NMBU, Norway. It was a pleasure to have her as a long-term visitor to the lab and to publish some nice papers. She is continuing at NMBU as a postdoc.

Oct 2021: Dr Lucy Peters successfully defended her PhD on the genomic basis of sexually divergent traits in red deer (Cervus elaphus) – we are so pleased and proud! Lucy is now starting a postdoc at INRAe Toulouse with friend of the lab Bertrand Servin.

Lucy’s last day: L-R Martin Stoffel, DR Lucy Peters, Susan Johnston, Anna Hewett, John McAuley

June 2021: A 2021 Honours Project student in our group, Lizzie Wimborne, was awarded the British Society of Immunology prize for her dissertation “Does the Genetic Basis of Immune Response Differ Between the Sexes in Soay Sheep?”.

May 2021: Martin Stoffel published two papers on the dynamics of runs of homozygosity (ROH) in the Soay sheep:

Stoffel et al (2021) Mutation load decreases with haplotype age in wild Soay sheep, Evolution Letters

Stoffel et al (2021) Genetic architecture and lifetime dynamics of inbreeding depression in a wild mammal, Nature Communications.

May 2020: Susan presented her research on recombination rate evolution (or lack of!) in wild Soay sheep and red deer in the online EvoEcoSeminar series. You can watch it again here:

November 2019: Alex Sparks published her PhD work looking at the genetic architecture of immune responses in wild Soay sheep in PLoS Genetics – we are so chuffed! Read it open access here.

August 2019: Lucy Peters presented her latest PhD work investigating genomic signatures of ongoing sexual conflict in Red deer at the European Society of Evolutionary Biology in Turku, Finland. You can watch it again here: