PhD Position in Micro-Ecosystems

University of Zurich Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies


Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies

Ecological Forecasting Research in Micro-Ecosystems - PhD position
60 %

The position is funded by the project Advancing the limits of ecological forecasting in changing environments using very long-term experimentation with micro-ecosystems. The increasing need to forecast biological diversity and ecosystem processes makes the time ripe for research strengthening the conceptual and biological understanding of ecological forecasting.

Your responsibilities

The project will integrate forecasting and experimentation by addressing a suite of research questions and hypotheses, such as how forecast skill is affected by biodiversity. An ecosystem of laboratory-based aquatic organisms, including functionally diverse bacteria, protists, and metazoans will allow for intensive and thorough sampling of ecological variables – from individuals to the ecosystem as a whole – over thousands of generations. The research will advance knowledge of which ecological variables are more- or less-forecastable, the contexts in which ecological dynamics are more- or less-forecastable, and which forecast methods provide higher cost/benefit ratio. It will also provide insights into the biological processes responsible for these findings.

The project will be embedded in the Predictive Ecology research group of Owen Petchey, which has the general aim to advance understanding of ecology and evolution in order to facilitate and improve predictions of how organisms and their environment respond to environmental change.

The position will be held in the Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies at the University of Zurich, with access to state-of-the-art infrastructure, a diverse and interactive scientific atmosphere, and an international, largely English-speaking working environment. Opportunities for professional development, e.g. in project management, leadership, mentoring, teaching and grant writing, are available and encouraged. The PhD student will be enrolled in the Ecology Programme of the Life Sciences Zurich Graduate School.

Your profile

PhD position requirements:
  • Knowledge of ecological and evolutionary concepts and theory, particularly those pertinent to ecological forecasting.
  • Experience modelling system dynamics.
  • Relevant Bachelors and Masters degrees.
  • Research project experience from Bachelors/Masters degree.
  • Ability to effectively specify questions, hypotheses, and goals.
  • Ability to work in a team and independently.
  • Ability to largely independently produce a good quality draft manuscript.

What we offer

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:
Application review will begin in early November 2019. Send your application as a single pdf file to Include in your application: a cover letter explaining your interest in and suitability for the position, your cv including your publication record, a copy of your Bachelors and Masters diplomas and courses taken, and names, institutional affiliations, email addresses and phone numbers of three referees. If you have no publically available publications to date, please include an example of a research report you have authored.

Place of work


Start of employment

Starting date to be determined by mutual agreement. The position has funding for 4-years.

Further information


In your application, please refer to


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