A PhD position is available at Department of Botany, Institute of Ecology and Earth Sciences, University of Tartu, Tartu, Estonia. No admission fee required for this position. 

The doctoral student is admitted to a student’s place of study, full-time, the nominal study period is four years. An employment contract for a junior researcher is not concluded. The planned start of study and research is September 4, 2023. Unfortunately, we can not offer as scholarship for this position. 

Plant-associated microbes are key drivers of biodiversity and functionality in plant communities worldwide. Underground plant-associated microbes such as mycorrhizal fungi have drawn the attention of scientists for decades, but less is known about the aboveground plant-associated microorganisms. The aboveground organs of plants host numerous ecologically important fungi, yet diversity patterns and the spatial distribution of such fungi remain unknown.

Although the host-specificity of rootassociated fungi has been studied profoundly, it is still unclear to what extent the leaf fungal communities are linked to different plant species. The recent development of high-throughput sequencing methods has allowed quick and more thorough characterization of fungal communities from various ecosystems and substrates. The main aim of this Ph.D. project is to study the host-specificity and spatial patterns of leaf-associated fungal communities in Europe.

In particular, we ask I) how the structure and diversity of different groups of fungi change along latitudinal gradients; II) what are the most important environmental factors shaping these communities at small and large spatial scales. In addition, we will investigate the host-specificity patterns of different groups of fungi in trees and understory vegetation.

This Ph.D. thesis relies on samples that have already been collected in the frameworks of “FunLeaf” citizen science campaign, and fungal communities will be described using up-to-date molecular tools. We will use “FungalTrait” and “Funguild” databases to assign OTUs to different functional traits and model-based statistics to investigate their distributions and diversity patterns. This project will significantly improve our fundamental knowledge of leaf-associated fungal communities.


We are looking for a motivated candidate who has the ability and interest to learn, initiative, dedication, critical thinking, and  problem solving. Candidates with background in biology, mycology, and ecology are welcome to apply. Knowledge of R language, bioinformatics and statistics are an advantage but not required. 

For more information please contact Dr. Niloufar Hagh Doust via Niloufar.hagh.doust@ut.ee 

Application Deadline: 15 May 2023 – 23:59 (Europe/Tallinn)


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