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 37,000 students and researchers alike to develop their own individual talents. As one of the best research universities in Europe, the University of Groningen has joined forces with other top universities and networks worldwide to become a truly global centre of knowledge.

The Groningen Institute for Evolutionary Life Sciences (GELIFES), the largest institute 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. Research levels range from molecular and organismal to populations and ecosystems, performed under laboratory, semi-natural and field conditions.

We are looking for a talented and enthusiastic evolutionary or behavioural ecologist for a fully funded 4-year PhD position. The successful applicant will work on a project aimed at understanding the role of animal personality in mating. The PhD candidate will work in the research group of Dr. Marion Nicolaus which is embedded within the Groningen Institute for Evolutionary Life Sciences (GELIFES), Institute of the Faculty of Science and Engineering.

In most animals, individuals of the same population differ systematically in behaviour but the consequences for ecology and evolution of such ‘animal personalities’ need more attention. Because personality variation can affect how behavioural types distribute spatially and interact with each other, such phenomena could promote personality-based mating and, potentially, be a first step towards reproductive isolation and species divergence. The project will address three main questions:

What is the prevalence of ‘mating by personality’ in natural populations? What are the mechanisms underlying ‘mating by personality’ (active mate choice; spatial/temporal segregation; behavioural plasticity)? What are their associated consequences for ecology and evolution? These questions will be addressed by experimental studies on three-spined sticklebacks where populations of ‘migrants’ were isolated in freshwater habitats becoming ‘residents’, following habitat fragmentation ~50 years ago.

These populations of residents and migrants differ genetically in movement and social behaviours. Because conservation efforts are underway to reconnect the waterways, we need to study the consequences of barrier removal for these populations. The PhD candidate will have the possibility to do field work and design experiments in the lab and in a mesocosm system where behaviours of tagged individuals can be automatically tracked.

The PhD candidate will receive varied and cutting-edge research training, with ample opportunities for following advanced courses, workshops and conferences, complemented by training in transferable skills and teaching.

As a PhD candidate, you are committed to conduct independent and original scientific research, to report on this research in international publications and presentations, and to present the results of the research in a PhD dissertation, to be completed within 4 years. PhD candidates are expected to contribute 10% of their overall workload to teaching


The ideal candidate is highly motivated, ambitious, creative, and has a good affinity with behavioural ecology research. The successful candidate will have the following required qualifications:

  • an MSc degree with specialisation in ecology, evolution, animal behaviour or related disciplines
  • the ability to work independently and in a team
  • excellent conceptual capacity
  • excellent command of the English language
  •  excellent communication and presentation skills, both in words and in writing
  • some knowledge of advanced statistics and a computer language like R.


Conditions of employment

We offer you in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities:

  • a salary of € 2,541 gross per month in the first year, up to a maximum of € 3,247 gross per month in the fourth and final year
  • a full-time position (1.0 FTE; based on a 38 hours per week)
  • a holiday allowance of 8% gross annual income
  • an 8.3% end-of-the-year allowance
  • minimum of 29 holidays and additional 12 holidays in case of full-time employment.

The position offered is for four years. Each successful candidate will first be offered 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 a successful completion of the PhD thesis within the contract period is to be expected.

A PhD training programme is part of the agreement and the successful candidate will be enrolled in the Graduate School of the Faculty. The preferred starting date is 1 October 2023.


You can submit your application until 30 June 11:59 pm / before 1 July 2023 Dutch local time (CET) by means of the application form (click on “Apply” below).

Interviews are scheduled to take place in the week of 17 July, 2023.

Applications for the position should include (as a single PDF file):

  • a cover letter explaining the educational background of the candidate and the motivation to apply for this position (letter of motivation attachment)
  • a comprehensive curriculum vitae providing details on bachelor’s and master’s degrees, work experience, and a publication list (if applicable) (CV attachment)
  • a detailed description of previous research experience, such as obtained in bachelor/master research projects (1-2 pages) (extra attachment 1)
  •  academic transcripts (extra attachment 2)
  • contact details of at least two academic references who can provide information on the candidate’s suitability for the position (extra attachment 3).

The University of Groningen strives to be a university in which students and staff are respected and feel at home, regardless of differences in background, experiences, perspectives, and identities. We believe that working on our core values of inclusion and equality are a joint responsibility and we are constructively working on creating a socially safe environment. Diversity among students and staff members enriches academic debate and contributes to the quality of our teaching and research


For information you can contact: Marion Nicolaus,

Please do not use the e-mail address(es) above for applications.


Leave a Reply