PhD position in Theoretical Island Biogeography (1.0 FTE)


Faculty of Science and Engineering


University of Groningen

Founded in 1614, the University of Groningen enjoys an international reputation as a dynamic and innovative centre of higher education offering high-quality teaching and research. Flexible study programmes and academic career opportunities in a wide variety of disciplines encourage the 35,000 students and researchers alike to develop their own individual talents. Quality has been our top priority for over four hundred years, and with success: the University of Groningen is currently in or around the top 100 on several influential ranking lists.

GELIFES, Faculty of Science & Engineering
The Groningen Institute for Evolutionary Life Sciences (GELIFES), one of the larger institutes of the Faculty of Science and Engineering (FSE), fills a special niche in the life sciences by covering and integrating mechanistic, evolutionary and ecological approaches, aiming to understand adaptation on all levels of biological organisation. Researchers pursue fundamental questions while collaborating with partners from nature conservation, industry, medicine and other realms of society. Our research fields include ecology, conservation biology, evolutionary biology, behavioural biology, chronobiology, genetics and genomics, neurobiology, physiology and theoretical modelling, using a wide array of research tools.

Job description

Groningen Institute for Evolutionary Life Sciences, GELIFES (, institute of the Faculty of Science and Engineering, at the University of Groningen, The Netherlands invites applications for a fully-funded, four-year PhD position in the group of Prof. dr. Rampal S. Etienne, which is part of the expertise group Theoretical Research in Evolutionary Life Sciences (TRÊS).

The student will conduct theoretical research on island biogeography in collaboration with Naturalis Biodiversity Centre in Leiden, The Netherlands. Supervision is by Professor Rampal S. Etienne, Dr. Frederic Lens (Naturalis) and Dr. Luis Valente (Naturalis, University of Groningen).

In addition to conducting research, there will be some teaching duties (~10% of your time).

Since the work of Darwin, islands have been considered as ideal systems to unravel evolutionary processes that have shaped present-day life, because of their isolation, defined boundaries, and often exceptionally high biodiversity. A large proportion of island species evolved through speciation in-situ and are found nowhere else in the world, but we still do not understand why some island lineages have radiated spectacularly, while others remained species-poor or did not radiate at all. Identifying the drivers that promote diversification is one of the key objectives in biodiversity research.

This research is part of an integrative study including two complementary PhD projects. This vacancy only applies to one PhD project and aims to build/extend, analyse, test and apply a novel model of trait-dependent diversification that is specifically tailored for islands. The PhD candidate will closely collaborate with another PhD candidate at Naturalis Biodiversity Center (see advertisement here: who will construct phylogenies of Canary Island plant lineages and compile morphological databases of particular traits hypothesized to potentially drive diversification. This empirical dataset generated by the Naturalis PhD student will be used to test the theoretical diversification model. Two field work trips to the Canary Islands are planned to collect plant species and investigate plant traits, and the theoretical PhD student is encouraged to take part in this field work.


The candidate is expected to have a (research) master degree in Biology, Ecology & Evolution, Mathematics, Physics, or another quantitative discipline, and to have experience with or a strong interest in Biological Modelling, and programming and excellent communication skills in English. Fluency in R is strongly preferred.

Conditions of employment

Contract length: 48 months.

We offer you, following the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities:

• a salary of € 2,395 gross per month in the first year, up to a maximum of € 3,061 gross per month in the fourth and final year for a full-time position
• a holiday allowance of 8% gross annual income
• an 8.3% year-end bonus
• a full-time position (1.0 FTE) for four years; first, you will get a temporary position of one year with the option of renewal for another three years; prolongation of the contract is contingent on sufficient progress in the first year to indicate that successful completion of the PhD thesis within the contract period is to be expected. A PhD training programme is part of the agreement and you will be enrolled in the Graduate School of the Faculty.

The conditions of employment are available at the University of Groningen website under Human Resources:

The preferred starting date is 1 October 2021.

Job Application

Do you want to become a member of our team? Please send your application to us, by submitting the following requested documents:

1. a motivation letter
2. a complete curriculum vitae
3. names and email addresses of two referees
4. if available, an example research paper.

You can submit your application until 23 May 11:59 pm / before 24 May 2021 Dutch local time (CET) by means of the application form (click on "Apply" below on the advertisement on the university website).

We are an equal opportunity employer that values diversity. We have adopted an active policy to increase the number of female scientists across all disciplines of the university. Therefore, women are encouraged to apply. Our selection procedure follows the guidelines of the Recruitment code (NVP), and European Commission's European Code of Conduct for recruitment of researchers,

Unsolicited marketing is not appreciated.

Additional information

For additional information, please contact:

prof. dr. Rampal S. Etienne, Full professor in theoretical and evolutionary community ecology

In your application, please always include the job opening ID 221232

Digital application form