The Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL is part of the ETH Domain. Approximately 600 people work on the sustainable use and protection of the environment and on the handling of natural hazards.

The Research Unit Biodiversity and Conservation Biology studies the impact of the environment and land use on the diversity of life. In the framework of the ERC Consolidator Grant, MyGardenOfTrees, the Evolutionary Genetics Group offers for the duration of 3-years starting as soon as possible a position for a (f/m/d) PhD Student in “Adaptation during range expansion in European beech”

The Evolutionary Genetics Group is interested in understanding the roles of demography and natural selection in shaping the life-histories and the genetic composition of forest tree populations across the landscape. The group uses field experiments, statistical models, and individual-based computer simulations to answer fundamental evolutionary questions and to aid adaptive forest management decisions.

MyGardenOfTrees is establishing an unprecedented species range-wide transplant experiment to assess the capacity of growth and regeneration of two forest tree species, European beech and silver fir, as well as their Mediterranean and oriental sister species. The experimental part of the project is based on participatory science and involves foresters all across Europe. Two PhD students will be engaged on this project working on complementary topics. 

The current PhD position will focus on understanding the adaptive and demographic processes that have led to the range expansion of European beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) after the last glacial maximum. Fagus sylvatica is best considered as a species complex whose current range extends from Spain to northern Iran.

Despite the large genetic diversity of beech populations in Minor Asia and on the Balkan peninsula, a single lineage has colonized most of Europe. Did the colonizing lineage have superior performance, and does it outperform other lineages still today? Could current beech die-back across Europe be partly attributed to the reduced genetic diversity due to the expansion load beyond ongoing unprecedented climate change?

Could the introduction of other beech lineages and hybridization between them be used to adapt European beech forests to future climate change? The selected PhD student will investigate these questions using a combination of genomics (whole genome sequence data), common garden experiments (performed by foresters) and environmental data. The PhD project will involve roughly 15% field and lab work, 50% data analysis (and simulations), and 35% dissemination and thesis writing.

The ideal candidate holds a Masters degree in evolutionary biology, population genetics, bioinformatics, plant science or in a related discipline and has a keen interest in evolutionary biology, statistics and bioinformatics. Advanced knowledge in R and/or python are necessary and interests in database management is a plus. We are looking for a person who is motivated to pursue a scientific career and who is curios, creative, responsible and can work independently. Fluency in English and excellent written and oral communication skills are expected.

The PhD thesis will be supervised by Dr Katalin Csilléry (WSL, leader of the Evolutionary Genetics Group), Prof Dr Yvonne Willi (University of Basel), Dr Christoph Sperisen (WSL), and will be in collaboration with the Genetic Diversity Center of the ETH Zurich. The PhD student will be based at WSL in Birmensdorf with short stays at the University of Basel. The PhD degree will be awarded by the University of Basel and the Zurich-Basel Plant Science Center’s PhD program in Plant science. 

Applications, including a motivation letter, a summary of past relevant accomplishments, a CV, and the names and contact details of two referees should be sent to Michèle Bucher, Human Resources WSL, by uploading the requested documents through Apply now below. Applications via email will not be considered.

The position remains open until filled. Katalin Csilléry, katalin.csillery(at), Tel. +41 44 739 23 43, will be happy to answer any questions or offer further information. The WSL strives to increase the proportion of women in its employment, which is why qualified women are particularly called upon to apply for this position.

Apply now

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