Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies

4-year PhD position in community ecology
60 %

How does the environment modify interactions between plant and microbial communities along an elevation gradient?

Plants and their microbes make up much of terrestrial biodiversity, and understanding how their interactions are changing under global change is critical for both natural ecosystems as well as food production. Applications are invited for a 4-year PhD position to study the community ecology of plant and microbial species interactions by combining experimental and observational field approaches.

Theory predicts that plant community structure and plant-microbe interactions can change along environmental gradients, yet evidence for how these factors interact with one another has remained scarce. Biodiversity and ecosystem productivity increase toward low latitudes and elevations, generating corresponding increases in the intensity of species interactions. However, the ecological consequences of such variation on relationships between plant and microbial communities is unknown.

Your responsibilities

This project is part of a larger study aimed at using mountain ecosystems to understand the interaction between biodiversity and global change. The aim of this PhD project is to study plant communities and their impacts and responses to microbial species interactions across an elevation gradient in Alpine populations in Switzerland through a combination of experiments and observational surveys.

The working language is English. German skills, although not essential, are helpful.

Your profile

Motivated students with a MSc degree in biodiversity, ecology, disease ecology, plant biology, or other related fields are encouraged to apply. Prior expertise in botanical surveying, experimental design, statistical analysis, or molecular techniques are a bonus, but your most important assets are enthusiasm for research, motivation to learn new things, and ability to work independently while being an active member of a research team.

What we offer

The project is supervised by Dr. Fletcher Halliday and Prof. Anna-Liisa Laine at the University of Zurich. The Laine lab has broad expertise in studying the ecological and evolutionary dynamics of species interactions in natural populations (e.g. Halliday et al. 2020 Nature EcoEvo, Laine et al. 2019 eLife, Sallinen et al. 2020 Nature Communications).

To apply, please send a single (!) PDF file merged from the following parts to Viviana Loaiza: CV (with possible publications included), a copy of your academic transcript records, contact details of two references (e.g. MSc thesis supervisor), and a cover letter (MAX 1 page) with a description of your researcher interests and why you would be a suitable candidate for the project. Please include the word "PhDCALANDA21" in the subject line.

Zurich is a highly attractive city in beautiful surroundings, with a multinational population, and many educational and recreational opportunities.

Place of work

Irchel Campus, Zurich

Start of employment

Applications will be considered until the position is filled. The position is available from March 1, 2021

Further information