PhD Research position at the NIOO (KNAW) and GELIFES (1.0 FTE)


Faculty of Science and Engineering


University of Groningen

Since its foundation in 1614, the University of Groningen has enjoyed an international reputation as a dynamic and innovative centre of higher education offering high-quality teaching and research. Balanced study and career paths in a wide variety of disciplines encourage currently more than 30,000 students and researchers to develop their own individual talents. Belonging to the best research universities in Europe and the top 100 universities in the world (see our ranking:, the University of Groningen is truly an international place of knowledge.

Job description

Evolutionary responses in seasonal timing to a warming world

Project information

Seasonal timing of reproduction and growth has major fitness consequences. Due to climate change, species are advancing their timing but species within a food chain do not advance at the same rate. This may lead to directional selection on seasonal timing. A better understanding of the genetic variation and selection pressures underlying seasonal timing is essential for predicting the rate at which species adapt to their warming world. The research will be carried out on great tits, part of the well studied food chain of oak, winter moth and great tit.

This PhD project will have three main aspects: (1) measuring selection on seasonal timing during breeding time, (2) measuring selective pressures during the pre-breeding period, and (3) exploring the effect of dispersal on local evolutionary change. Studying selection during breeding time (1) will make use of already existing selection lines for early and late reproduction in great tits. Offspring of these lines will be introduced in the wild to obtain unbiased fitness measurements of early and late reproducing birds. Selection pressures during the pre-laying period (2) will be studied by quantifying the phenology of food availability during egg laying directly and using satellite data to extrapolate the current data set on this food availability to a longer set of years. Whether individuals dispersing into the study area affect genetic variation and adaptation because they were differently selected than the local birds (3) will be studied by analysing using our long-term data base (1955-present). Combined with other research questions that will be developed by the PhD student, this project should give better insight in the rate and ability at which species can adapt to a warming world.

The Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW) has an excellent track record on evolutionary ecology, with ample experience with working with birds in the wild, under controlled conditions and with their genomes. The Chronobiology unit of GELIFES has an excellent track record on chronobiology, including seasonal timing.

The position is supervised by Prof Dr Marcel E. Visser at the Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW) in Wageningen ( or +31 317473439) and by Prof Dr Roelof A. Hut ( of the Chronobiology unit of the Groningen Institute for Evolutionary Life Sciences (GELIFES), University of Groningen.


- you should have an MSc or equivalent in Biology or a related discipline, preferably with a strong background in Evolutionary Ecology, Ecological Genetics or Evolutionary Physiology
- you are expected to have an excellent academic record (list of examination marks from your university study) and be curious, creative and ambitious
- you should be able to write scientific articles and reports (to be proven by your graduation thesis or another comparable report) and be fluent in English both in writing and speech.

Conditions of employment

Contract length: 48 months.

The University of Groningen offers an appointment for a period of four years, which should be concluded during this period with a PhD examination. The University of Groningen offers a salary of € 2,222 gross per month in the first year up to a maximum of € 2,840 gross per month in the fourth and final year, based on a full-time position (1.0 FTE), excluding a 8% holiday allowance and a 8.3% end-of-the-year bonus. The first year constitutes a probationary period, with an evaluation of the candidate’s performance after 9 months. The objective of this evaluation is to establish whether the candidate will be able to finish a PhD thesis in the remaining three years. If the performance evaluation is positive, the candidate’s contract will be extended by another 3 years, for a total of 4 years.

The PhD student will be appointed at the University of Groningen but the research will be carried out at the Animal Ecology Department of the Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW) in Wageningen (see in close collaboration with the Chronobiology unit at the University of Groningen.

A training programme within the Graduate School of Science and Engineering at the University of Groningen is part of the agreement. You and your supervisors will make up a plan for the additional education and supervising that you specifically need. This plan also defines your teaching activities.

How to apply
You may apply for this position until 10 December 23:59 h / before 11 December 2017 Dutch local time by means of the application form (click on "Apply" below on the advertisement on the University of Groningen vacancy website).

Applications for the position should include:
• curriculum vitae (name, address, degree(s) with transcript(s) of grades, research experience, educational and employment history, etc.)
• motivation letter
• name and (email) address of two academic references.

The preferred starting date will be 1 February 2018

The interviews will be held on Wednesday 20 December 2017 at the NIOO in Wageningen.

Unsolicited marketing is not appreciated.

Additional information

For additional information, please contact:

Prof. Marcel E. Visser
+31 317473439

In your application, please always include the job opening ID 217434

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