PhD position in evolutionary physiology: Zurich (Switzerland), Strasbourg (France) and South Africa ~ Bioblogia.net

22 de marzo de 2012

PhD position in evolutionary physiology: Zurich (Switzerland), Strasbourg (France) and South Africa

Physiological flexibility as an evolved trait to adapt to changing
environments

Position available immediately for 2.5 years, with the option to extend for
one year.
Deadline for application is the 2nd of April and interviews will take place
in April.

Key words: respirometry; animal handling; blood sampling; AVP; hormone
assays; physiological adaptation; social flexibility; ecology and evolution

I am looking for a PhD candidate to study physiological flexibility as an
evolved trait. Changes in physiology enable adaptation to changing
environments (physiological adaptation) and regulate behavioral adaptation.
The main aim of our research group is to understand the evolved
physiological mechanisms that allow animals to behave adaptively in a
changing environment. (See full project summary at end of email).

The student will be supervised by Dr. Carsten Schradin and
be part of the research group studying African striped
mice (Rhabdomys pumilio; see www.stripedmouse.com and
www.ieu.uzh.ch/research/behaviour/endocrinology.html).

I am seeking a highly-motivated, independent candidate with excellent
organizational skills. Strong intellectual skills are desired. Technical
skills are mandatory to run the respirometry field laboratory.

The ideal candidate has a background in eco-physiology, behavioral
endocrinology or behavioral ecology. Of advantage is experience with
animal handling, with respirometry, with hormone analyses, in experimental
design and statistical analysis of data. The working language in my
group is English.

The student will be based at the Department of Animal Behavior,
Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies at the
University of Zurich.  In Zurich the PhD student has to visit courses
(12 ECS) and give lectures to fulfill the conditions of the PhD program
in evolutionary biology: http://www.evobio.uzh.ch/index.html. Zurich is a
highly attractive city in beautiful surroundings, with a multinational
population, and many educational and recreational opportunities
(http://www.zuerich.com).

Laboratory work will be done at the CNRS in Strasbourg (France) where
I will be positioned from October 2012 onwards.

Data will be collected in the field in South Africa, where the PhD student
has to spend two field seasons of approx. 9 months each. In the field,
the candidate has to run independently the respirometry laboratory and
conduct field experiments with the help of field assistants.

The student will be supervised by me during my stays in Zurich (twice
a year) and in the field  (twice a year) as well as during the stay of
the student in Strasbourg, which is only 2 hs from Zurich.

The first 6 months will be a trial period during which time the student
has to visit courses in Zurich, develop a research proposal and spend 2
months in the field. After the trial period the position can be extended
for another 2 years. The student can apply for funding another year from
the University of Zurich.

The salary follows the Swiss National Science Foundation scale and is
very competitive, especially for somebody spending significant time in
South Africa (CHF 41 000 for the first year, CH 44 400 for the second
year; this is 34 000 Euro during the first and  37 000 Euro during
the second year).  The student is expected to apply for funding for
an additional year, for example from the Forschungskredit in Zurich
(http://www.researchers.uzh.ch/promotion/forschungskredit_en.html).

The position can be filled immediately.

Deadline for application is the 2nd of April and interviews will take
place in April.

Please send your application by email and as PDF to
carsten.schradin@ieu.uzh.ch.  Your application should include: *         a
letter outlining your past research and particular motivation for this
position, information on when you could start and contact details of two
referees  (max. 2 pages) *         your CV *         PDFs of publications
(published, in press or in preparation) *         PDF of your master
thesis (if not published yet)


______________________________
____________________________
PD Dr. Carsten Schradin
Group Leader Behavioral Endocrinology and Eco-Physiology

Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
Department of Animal Behavior
University of Zurich, Winterthurerstrasse 190, 8057 Zurich, Switzerland.
Tel: +41 - (0)44 635 5486

Tel. secretary: +41 - (0)44 635 5271
Fax: +41 - (0)44 635 5490

Honorary Associate Professor

School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences

University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa



Head

Succulent Karoo Research Station, Goegap Nature Reserve, Private Bag X1,
8240 Springbok, South Africa

http://www.stripedmouse

http://www.ieu.uzh.ch/research/behaviour/endocrinology.html


Summary of the entire project, into which the PhD project will be
incorporated.

The proposed project will study how evolved endocrine mechanisms allow
animals to behave adaptively in their changing natural environment. The
focus will be on physiological mechanisms regulating metabolism
(corticosterone), osmoregulation (arginine vasopressin), and reproduction
(testosterone). We will study physiological adaptation to droughts,
individual differences in physiological traits leading to fitness
consequences, and heritability of physiological traits.

Our study species, the striped mouse (Rhabdomys pumilio) from South Africa,
is a non-desert specialist living in an arid environment with pronounced
differences in the annual seasons. Each generation lives for only one year,
and striped mice reproduce in the breeding season following the season of
their own birth. Most mortality occurs during the long dry season
(December-April), when food and water are restricted resources, determining
who will survive until the next breeding season (September-November).
However, between years there is huge variation in the amount of rainfall and
thus food availability during the dry season. For my study species, this
means some generations experience a very resource restricted dry season,
while other generations don't. Over the last ten years, we studied
behavioral flexibility of striped mice as a way to adapt to their changing
environment. Now we want to study physiological flexibility as an evolved
trait that regulates both social flexibility as well as important
physiological processes such as metabolism, osmoregulation and reproduction.

>From free living individuals, we will measure blood hormone and blood sugar
levels, resting metabolic rate and daily energy expenditure. Data on hormone
levels will be available for 10 generations (the years 2006 - 2015) with
pronounced variation in water and energy (food) availability during the dry
season. We will correlate physiological measurements with food and water
availability and with social behavior. Experimentally, we will provide water
and food during the dry season to test for an influence on metabolism,
osmoregulation, social behavior and survival.

Second, we will test the hypothesis that high levels of metabolic hormones
lead to fitness benefits in years with high food availability during the dry
season (due to significant prior rainfall) but to reduced survival in years
when food availability is significantly lower during the dry seasons. Such
observations may explain the maintenance of genetic variation within the
population. We will increase corticosterone levels experimentally during the
dry season to rainy season levels. We predict increased resting metabolic
rate and reduced fitness in test individuals compared to untreated controls
and individuals with corticosterone implants that are also food
supplemented.

Third, by combining physiological data with a pedigree of more than 1000
individuals, we will calculate heritability for physiological traits using
the statistical animal model. This statistical model allows the inclusion of
important ecological parameters (season, precipitation, overall food
availability) as well as individual specific parameters (social class, food
availability in the natal territory, and time of birth). This will enable us
to understand the extent to which the high variance in physiological traits
between individuals is due to genetic or environmental differences.

The proposed project will integrate studies on behavior, ecology and
physiology, combining both ultimate and proximate research to understand
individual variation in physiological adaptation. Droughts are predicted to
become more frequent and more severe in the future as a consequence of
global warming. Thus, we will also gain information on how climate change
influences natural population and how natural populations react to climate
change.


PD Dr. Carsten Schradin
Group Leader Behavioral Endocrinology and Eco-Physiology

Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
Department of Animal Behavior
University of Zurich, Winterthurerstrasse 190, 8057 Zurich, Switzerland.
Tel: +41 - (0)44 635 5486

Tel. secretary: +41 - (0)44 635 5271
Fax: +41 - (0)44 635 5490

Honorary Associate Professor

School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences

University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

Head
Succulent Karoo Research Station, Goegap Nature Reserve, Private Bag X1,
8240 Springbok, South Africa


http://www.stripedmouse

http://www.ieu.uzh.ch/research/behaviour/endocrinology.html

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