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Přírodovědecká fakulta Jihočeské univerzity

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Bern, Switzerland: 3 PhD positions in behav ecol PDF Tisk Email
Institute of Ecology and Evolution, University of Bern, Switzerland 
The Institute of Ecology & Evolution at the University of Bern
offers excellent opportunities and infrastructure for theoretical and
experimental research in the field of ecology and evolution.
 It hosts
six chairs, several associated professors and junior group leaders with
complementary, yet overlapping and linked areas of scholarship. It is
home to a large number of post-doctoral researchers, PhD and MSc students
from different countries worldwide.
Research at the chair of Behavioural Ecology focuses on the evolution
of sociality and cooperation, within-population individual variation
of behaviour and life history pathways, and the influence of early
experience on life-long and transgenerational traits and decisions. In
addition to theoretical modelling, our research uses cichlid fishes from
Lake Tanganyika, ambrosia beetles and Norway rats as model systems. We
combine sophisticated behavioural experiments in the laboratory and field
with long-term monitoring of individual life histories in nature, develop
theoretical models of evolutionary mechanisms underlying behaviour,
and study molecular mechanisms by transcriptome profiling and hormone
manipulations. Currently the division comprises roughly 30 staff and
student members.
Job descriptions
1st project: Integration of early environmental information within and
across generations in a cooperative breeder
Early life conditions can have life-long effects on the phenotypic
development of animals. Most research in developmental plasticity focuses
only on a single environmental trigger or ontogenetic stage. However,
natural environments are usually complex. If we aim to understand the
development of well-integrated adult phenotypes, we must consider
effects of multiple ecological factors during multiple ontogenetic
stages. The highly social cichlid Neolamprologus pulcher is a unique
model system to study the development of integrated phenotypes, because
it uses environmental cues to specialize on one of two life history
strategies during ontogeny, namely early own reproduction or delayed
dispersal to help rearing offspring of dominant breeders. N. pulcher is
a well-studied model system of social evolution that is exceptionally
suited to experiments in the field and laboratory. Within this project,
two PhD positions are currently available:
Position 1: "Environmental influences on development during different
ontogenetic stages" The aim of this PhD-project is to investigate the
relative significance of four important environmental influences for
the development of helping and dispersal propensities of N. pulcher:
prenatal maternal effects, brood care, early juvenile and late juvenile
environments.  Position 2: "Long-term effects of early environment within
and across generations" This PhD project investigates whether the early
environment influences adult life histories and reproductive performance,
and whether it affects the phenotypes of successive generations through
epigenetic inheritance.  Both PhD projects will pursue a multidisciplinary
approach involving behavioural experiments in the laboratory, field work,
ecological genomics and/or quantitative meta-analysis. Eligible candidates
will have a master's degree (or equivalent) in Biology and research
experience in animal behaviour and a genuine understanding of evolutionary
theory. Practical skills in molecular genetics techniques, the application
of statistical models and empirical work with fish would be beneficial,
but they are not a precondition. The project will be mostly based in Bern,
but will involve collaboration with Nadia Aubin-Horth (University Laval,
Canada) for the molecular analyses and with Shinishi Nakagawa (University
of Otago, New Zealand) for meta-analysis.  Supervisor: Barbara Taborsky.
2nd project: The use of information in social decisions
Position 3:  "Conditional decisions to stay or disperse in fungus
tending ambrosia beetles" When deciding to stay or disperse from the
natal territory, information about the quality of potential dispersal
areas may be limited and costly to obtain. Modelling results imply
that the stage before dispersal decisions are made is of particular
interest to understand social evolution. Ambrosia beetles are cooperative
breeders cultivating fungi for food. Individual dispersal is timed in
dependence of the need for cooperative care in the natal colony. Here we
ask whether and how dispersal decisions depend on (i) the body condition
of beetles, (ii) the microbial condition in the natal gallery, and (iii)
the sustainability of the substrate in which they live.  Experiments will
show how beetles respond to the microbial composition of their gallery,
including hygienic behaviour, allogrooming and fungal care, and their
timing of dispersal. The utility of galleries will be manipulated to
test effects on the beetles' condition, dispersal and reproductive
decisions. In addition, the degree of sociality will be determined
in scolytid ambrosia beetles colonizing living trees, to test whether
the ephemeral nature of freshly dead trees, the resource used by most
species,  prevents this group from being eusocial.  This PhD project will
pursue a multidisciplinary approach involving behavioural experiments in
the laboratory, field work in temperate and tropical regions, and the
assessment and manipulation of the chemical ecology of the beetles'
fungus gardens. Eligible candidates will have a master's degree (or
equivalent) in Biology, research experience in animal behaviour, and a
genuine understanding of evolutionary theory. Practical skills in the
application of statistical models, in chemical ecology and in empirical
work with arthropods are beneficial.  Supervisor: Michael Taborsky.
All three positions are funded by the Swiss National Science
Foundation. They last for three years and may start as early as
January 2015. Salaries will follow the schemes of the Swiss National
Science Foundation.

Closing date: Open until filled, but all application

materials, including the CV and a motivation letter, a summary of research
experience, copies of any published or in-press papers, and two letters
of recommendation should be received by 8th December 2014 to ensure
full consideration. Candidates should indicate in the cover letter for
which of the three positions they apply and when they could take up the
position. Please send all application material to the secretary's
office, c/o Claudia Leiser, Behavioural Ecology, University of Bern,
Wohlenstrasse 50A, CH-3032 Bern, Switzerland; or, preferably, as e-mail
attachments to 
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