PhD Position in Evolutionary Ecology

University of Zurich Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies


Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies

PhD position in Evolutionary Ecology (4 years)
100 %

Does selection for disease resistance vary along an elevation gradient?

Theory predicts resistance to evolve under pathogen-imposed selection, yet evidence for pathogen-mediated selection to generate the observed diversity in resistance has remained scarce. Biodiversity and ecosystem productivity increase toward low latitudes and elevations, generating corresponding increases in the intensity of species interactions. However, the evolutionary consequences of such variation in the intensity of species interactions are largely unknown.

Your responsibilities

The aim of this PhD project is to study resistance variation in Plantago lanceolata across an elevation gradient in Alpine populations in Switzerland through a combination of field transplantation and laboratory inoculation experiments, and through an analysis of variation in resistance-relevant genes.

Your profile

Applications are invited for a 4-year PhD position to study the evolution of disease resistance in natural plant populations by combining ecological, evolutionary and molecular approaches. Motivated students with a MSc degree in evolutionary biology, ecology, molecular biology, plant biology, or other related fields are encouraged to apply. Prior expertise in experimental design, statistical analysis, population genomics or bioinformatics 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.

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

What we offer

The project is supervised by Prof. Anna-Liisa Laine and Prof. Andreas Wagner 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. Laine et al. 2019 eLife, Halliday et al. 2020 Nature EcoEvo). The Wagner Lab is broadly interested in evolution and life's fundamental organizational principles, with ongoing work in the lab ranging from the directed evolution of enzymes to laboratory evolution in E.coli and computational analyses of genetic networks (e.g., Zheng et al, Science 2019; Payne and Wagner, Science 2014).

The city of Zurich is regarded as having high quality of life and standard of living with remuneration to match. During hot summers the lake, river, and many outdoor pools provide cooling opportunities, and the close-by Alps cater for many summer and winter outdoor activities. Local and regional (Europe) rail networks meet at Zurich's main train station and provide convenient and low environmental-impact travel to many European cities. The city's international airport is convenient when required.

How to apply:

please send a single (!) PDF file merged from the following parts to Jacqueline Moser:
  • CV (with possible publications included)
  • a copy of your academic transcript records
  • contact details of two references (e.g. MSc thesis supervisor)
  • a cover letter (MAX 1 page) with a description of your researcher interests and why you would be a suitable candidate for the project

Place of work

Irchel Campus, University of Zurich, Zurich

Start of employment

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

Further information

Jacqueline Moser

In your application, please refer to


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