Western Kentucky University is a public institution. It has a total undergraduate enrollment of 14,729 (fall 2021), its setting is city, and the campus size is 200 acres. It utilizes a semester-based academic calendar. Western Kentucky University’s ranking in the 2022-2023 edition of Best Colleges is National Universities.

Phylogeny, species and population genetic diversity of eastern USA blind cave beetles:

Ongoing studies are being done to hypothesize the phylogenetic history and examine the genetic diversity of eastern USA cave adapted trechine ground beetles using molecular data. One study will focus on the genus Neaphaenops by testing species and subspecies monophyly and genetic limits. Research involves sampling beetles in a diverse array of caves in Kentucky, so a student interested in cave ecology and exploration is particularly well suited to this project. Specific short and long-term goals include:

  1. Phylogeny including representatives of N.A. cave genera and use it to explore the evolution of various morphological traits as potential adaptations for cave life.
  2. Test hypotheses of relationships and species limits for Neaphaenops using CO1 and/or RAD next generation sequencing.
  3. Hypothesize the geographic barriers that may have led to speciation in these beetles, such as rivers or other barriers that have dissected karst regions.
  4. Evolutionary studies of spider beetles from southern Africa, Peru, and Australia The Ptinidae is comprised of about 70 genera and over 600 species worldwide. The faunas of many places are still very poorly known with many new genera and species that have yet to be documented. South Africa is particularly rich in spider beetle diversity, with 22 genera including 11 endemic as well as seven genera currently undescribed in our possession.

The Australian fauna, in particular the myrmecophilous species that are associated with ants, include many undocumented forms. The Atacama Desert of Peru and Chile is particularly unknown and ripe for investigation. We have done several trips to South Africa and more recently have done field work in Peru in 2019 and 2022. More exploratory work is needed and inclusion of taxa into molecular phylogenetic studies at the generic and broader levels.


A background in entomology would be useful but is not essential. If interested, please send an email to Keith.Philips@wku.edu.
The start date is negotiable. A fee waiver is included and extra support is generally available during the summer. Stipends increase for the second year. Graduate student research grants are also available to support projects.

Salary: standard stipend $10,000 for 10 months (August – May)

Last Date to Apply: 11/15/2022

Contact Person Keith.Philips Contact Phone 270-438-2244 Contact eMail Keith.Philips@wku.edu

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