ETH Zurich University is inviting applications for a PhD position in studying chemical communications between plants and insects in ecological communities by combining both empirical and theoretical work. The 4-year PhD position is fully funded and based in the Biocommunication group at the Department of Environmental Systems Science.
|Scholarship Sponsor||ETH Zurich|
|Scholarships level||PhD Position|
|Award Amount||Fully Funded|
|Fellowship Period||Four years|
|Opening date||February 18, 2021|
|Closing date||February 28, 2021|
In the face of more severe and more frequent threats to ecological systems, species interactions are vulnerable yet significant for ecosystem functioning. Nevertheless, anticipating species interactions is currently hampered by the lack of integrative data recording of both species interaction networks and functional traits of species at the community level, and more crucially, by the lack of conceptual frameworks and applied methodologies.
Studies that seek to identify mediators of interactions (e.g., plant volatile organic compounds, VOCs) have often focused on a few model species in controlled environments, isolated from the ecological networks in which they are typically embedded. On the other hand, network ecology studies species interactions at the community level focusing on the roles of topological structures. Still, it lacks the integration of functional traits to gain more mechanistic insights.
The innovative project aims to integrate functional traits (plant volatile organic compounds, VOCs) and network ecology to develop novel methods to explore the mechanisms on the formation of plant-insect interactions in ecological communities. The project’s two main components are (1) Empirical studies where we will conduct fieldwork to build plant-insect interaction networks and collect and analyse plant scent; and (2) theoretical work where we will create a conceptual framework and test it with field data. You will get training with multiple interdisciplinary skills on empirical and theoretical aspects. You will get involved in developing the project, and you are also encouraged to branch out your side projects.
Overall, by understanding the chemical information in ecosystems, we aim to decipher why plants and their insect partners are connected in the ways they are and not otherwise. Any key chemical signals are more crucial for a stable ecosystem and its functioning. This interdisciplinary project will deliver novel mechanistic insights into plant-insect network structures in ecosystems and inspire practicable management for nature conservation and restoration.
The deadline for applications is February 28, 2021
Further information: on the research group and department, please visit our homepages: www.biocommunication.ethz.ch and www.usys.ethz.ch.
- We are looking for a highly motivated PhD candidate who enjoys working on a cutting-edge and interdisciplinary project that involves chemical ecology and evolution, network ecology and information theory.
- Candidates should have a Master’s degree (or equivalent) in ecology, evolutionary biology, chemical ecology, mathematics, or a related field and enjoy working both in field sites to collect empirical data and on computers to build mathematical models.
- Chemical collection and analytical skills, and/or programming skills (in R/Python/Julia) are a plus.
- You are expected to have good communication, and writing skills (fluent spoken and written English) and work independently and interactively with international collaborators and students.
ETH Zurich is one of the world’s leading universities specialising in science and technology. We are renowned for our excellent education, cutting-edge fundamental research and direct transfer of new knowledge into society. Over 30,000 people from more than 120 countries find our university to be a place that promotes independent thinking and an environment that inspires excellence. Located in the heart of Europe, yet forging connections all over the world, we work together to develop solutions for the global challenges of today and tomorrow.
We look forward to receiving your online application with the following documents:
- A 1-page letter of motivation detailing previous research experience and relevant skills in the field, lab and/or theoretical work
- A CV including publications
- The names and contact information of two academic referees
Please note that we exclusively accept applications submitted through our online application portal. Applications via email or postal services will not be considered.
We strongly encourage applicants to send your application as soon as possible. The applicants’ evaluation will start on February 28, 2021, and will continue until the position is filled.
The earliest starting date of the PhD position is on September 1, 2021.