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.

Forests are the largest terrestrial carbon sink on Earth. Though trees are most often credited for this carbon storage, vast networks of belowground fungi facilitate this by providing trees with growth-limiting nutrients, most notable are ectomycorrhizal fungi, which inhabit the roots of most trees. Some ectomycorrhizal fungi form belowground networks that connect different root systems and exchange carbon, nutrients, and water from relatively resource rich to poor zones. Ectomycorrhizae are so essential that many trees will not survive without them, raising deep concerns for how these fungi respond to climate change.

The Research Unit Forest Dynamics assesses the effects of changing environmental conditions on forest ecosystem functioning. In the Ecosystem Ecology research group, starting November 2022 or upon agreement, we are offering a position as PhD student in the field of mycorrhizal ecology

You will work within a recently funded SNSF Ambizione project to examine how background climate affects forest responses to warming and drought, and how variation in ectomycorrhizal communities, functional genes, and networks shapes this response. The ultimate goal of this project is to understand how the total soil mycobiome, but particularly the ectomycorrhizal fungal component, responds to climate warming and drought and how this response affects tree growth and death. A variety of DNA metabarcoding and metagenomic techniques will be used alongside isotopic analyses to trace plant-fungal carbon flows. You will work with recent Ambizione fellow Dr. Mark Anthony at the Ecosystem Ecology Group of Dr. Arthur Gessler at WSL in Birmensdorf.

You should hold a Master’s degree in a relevant field to the project (e.g., biology, environmental sciences), a recognized driver’s license in Switzerland, and are comfortable speaking and writing in English. This PhD position is best for someone not only interested in conducting extensive field work across Switzerland, but also someone keen to develop and use sophisticated molecular and bioinformatic methods to study fungi. Previous experience using molecular techniques, analyzing [genomic] data using command-line tools and R, and culturing fungi is desirable but not a requirement. A strong desire to learn is most important.

Please send your complete application to Stefania Pe, Human Resources WSL, by uploading the requested documents through our webpage. Applications via email will not be considered. Mark Anthony (, will be happy to answer any question. 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.

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