PhD Position in Ecology
University of Bern
Switzerland

PhD Position in Ecology

Institute of Ecology and Evolution (IEE), Division of Behavioural Ecology
Start of employment: negotiable (ideally October/November 2024). The starting salary is 47,040 CHF and includes social security contributions.

Two fully funded, 4-year PhD positions are available in the Division Behavioural Ecology (https://www.behav.iee.unibe.ch/) led by Prof. Eva Ringler at the University of Bern, Switzerland. The positions are part of the research project “Facilitators and constraints of behavioural flexibility” financed by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF). In this project, we will investigate flexibility from a behavioural, hormonal, and neuronal perspective.
While the ecological and evolutionary significance of behavioural plasticity is well recognized, we still know little about the physiological processes that facilitate flexibly switching between several, potentially conflicting behaviours – such as aggression and parental care. In this project, we will investigate how cognitive, hormonal, and neuronal mechanisms act together in flexibly balancing contrasting behavioural decisions. We hypothesise that trade-offs between aggressive and parental behaviours also manifest on a physiological level, and that short-term changes in steroid release and/or sensitivity may provide animals with a mechanism for adapting their behavioural responses to rapidly changing contexts.

Tasks
The PhD students will be responsible for conducting experiments with our model species, the poison frog Allobates femoralis, in the field and in the lab, management and analysis of the data, and publication of results. Candidates are expected to actively participate in our weekly lab meetings and attend 1-2 scientific conferences per year. The specific focus of the PhD theses will be negotiated depending on the candidate's interests and/or skills. The candidates must be willing and capable to spend up to 2 months each year in a tropical research station under very simple living conditions.
Requirements
Candidates must be highly motivated, creative, and able to work independently and collaboratively. We welcome applications from diverse scientific backgrounds (e.g. ecology, behaviour, cognition, endocrinology, neurobiology), but a strong background in evolutionary biology is a plus. In their motivation letter, applicants should clearly state their motivation for developing a PhD project about behavioural flexibility in poison frogs. They should also mention their previous experience in working in tropical environments, (poison) frogs, endocrinology, neurobiology, molecular biology, spatial ecology, animal cognition, and/or bioacoustics. Candidates must have good written and spoken communication skills in English, which is the working language of our institute. A Master degree in a related field is required. We are committed to increasing diversity, equity and inclusiveness in ecology and evolution and especially encourage applications from underrepresented groups.
We offer
The Division of Behavioural Ecology is a dynamic, highly international, and interdisciplinary research team. We study the evolutionary mechanisms that shape animal behaviour in ecologically relevant contexts. Specific research topics include parental decision-making, cooperative breeding, animal communication, cognition, animal personality, and life history strategies. As supporters of the Better Science Initiative (https://betterscience.ch/en/), our lab philosophy includes open and compassionate communication, regular individual meetings and evaluation of mentoring and career development needs, and prioritization of the well-being of all lab members. Our group is part of the Institute of Ecology and Evolution (IEE) at the University of Bern (https://www.iee.unibe.ch/). Beside diverse seminars and lectures at the University of Bern, PhD students have access to additional courses via the Swiss CUSO doctoral programme in Ecology and Evolution (https://biologie.cuso.ch/ecology-evolution). Through these structures, PhD students have ample opportunities for interactions and collaborations across research fields with a vibrant international community of graduate students, post-doctoral researchers, and professors. The University of Bern is situated near the heart of the beautiful old city, and the quality of life in Bern is very high, with the Swiss alps in close vicinity. The Division of Behavioural Ecology is based at the Ethological Research Station Hasli, which is located slightly outside the city of Bern within the beautiful Bremgarten forest.
 
 
Please apply with the following documents:
  • Letter of motivation
  • CV
  • Master certificate or transcripts (if already available)
  • names of two contact persons (recommendation letters will not be needed at this stage)
  • one example of scientific writing (MSc thesis, seminar article, journal article)

Please send your application as a single PDF named “application_firstname.lastname” until 30th July 2024 to eva.ringler@unibe.ch


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