Postdoc with ants in California ~

16 de noviembre de 2011

Postdoc with ants in California

Post-doc position in the spatial genetics and ecology of acacia-ants in Kenya
The Stanton and Grosberg labs, Department of Evolution and Ecology,
University of California Davis

We are seeking a highly motivated post-doc with expertise in spatial
genetic analysis, an interest in using genetics to inform field
experiments and surveys, and the ability to work up to 4 months per year
at one of Africa's most spectacular field research centers.

Over the past twelve years, our team of colleagues at the Mpala Research
Centre in Kenya has probed deeply into the ecological dynamics of a
multi-species mutualism in which four species of acacia-ants associate
with a single, dominant acacia, A. drepanolobium in highland savannas
around East Africa. The relative ease with which field manipulations
can be conducted in this system, in concert with its amazingly rich
natural history, has resulted in a number of high-profile publications,
and new insights into the dynamics of competition and coexistence among
the symbiont ant species, the role of mega-herbivores in maintaining
the mutualism, and the non-additive fitness consequences for long-lived
host trees that associate with multiple species over their lifetime. For
links to recent papers and some of the work in progress, please refer
to the beautiful website of our pal and collaborator extraordinaire,
Todd Palmer (

The new post-doc will lead a relatively new research effort, in which we
are focusing on three congeneric acacia-ant species that coexist at very
fine spatial scales around the Mpala area  Crematogaster sjostedti,
C. mimosae, and C. nigriceps. These species vary dramatically in
ecology, life-history and apparent colony dynamics. Large, multi-queen,
multi-tree colonies of C. sjostedti dominate in competition for host
trees over smaller (sometimes multi-queen) colonies of C. mimosae,
which in turn can competitively displace the single-queen colonies of
C. nigriceps. The focus of our current project is to determine what role
spatial patterns of within-colony and between-colony genetic variation may
play in colony success in competition for food sources and host trees,
colony establishment, the balance between intra- versus inter-specific
competition, and on the ability of these intensely competing species to
coexist system. Multiple microsatellite loci have been developed in two
of the three species thus far, and patterns of variation at these loci
identify colony structures that correspond closely with those obtained
from field aggression assays.

So, if you are, like us, someone who is driven to solve mysteries, here
is just a small sample of observations we've made and questions we hope
to address in this work.

*Bigger colonies have a competitive advantage, but attaining large
colony size requires multiple queens. To what extent are large colonies
less genetically integrated than single-queen colonies? Does polygyny
pre-dispose a colony to reduced cooperation or fragmentation? If not,
how is colony integrity and cooperation maintained?

** Colonies of the different species are spatially aggregated  that is,
conspecific colonies are more often near neighbors than expected by
chance. To what extent are conspecific neighbors also related to one
another? How do genetically related neighboring colonies arise?

** Do neighboring colonies of the same species compete as often and as
intensively as heterospecific neighbors? To what extent are levels of
intraspecific, inter-colony aggression determined by genetic relatedness?

Here are the attributes we are seeking in the person who will fill
this position. 1) Strong skills in writing and in transforming data
into manuscripts and research proposals. 2) Experience in development
of microsatellites and in analysis of microsats or other hyper-variable
genetic markers using multiple software packages. 3) Experience in the
design and execution of large-scale field experiments. 4) Good mentoring
and organizational skills, with an ability to organize and supervise
lab groups and research teams. 5) High levels of responsibility and
self-motivation for independent work. 6) Experience with mapping and
spatial analysis in GIS. 7) Experience and interest in ant or other
haplodiploid social insects is a plus, but not essential.

UC Davis is an extraordinarily stimulating and fertile environment for
post-doctoral work in all aspects of evolutionary ecology. While on
campus, the post-doc will have office and lab space in Storer Hall,
home to both the Department of Ecology and the Center for Population
Biology. We anticipate that the post-doc will make two trips per
year to the Mpala Research Centre in Kenya, which hosts a stimulating
international community of biologists and ecosystem scientists. This
post-doc position is renewable for up to three years. Full-time salary
will range from $38,500 to $45,000, depending on years of experience.

Please send inquiries or applications to Maureen Stanton at by December 7. Applications should include a
cover letter describing your interests in (and qualifications for) this
position, an up-to-date c.v., and the names, email addresses and phone
numbers of 3 references.

Maureen Stanton
Department of Evolution and Ecology
One Shields Avenue
University of California Davis
Davis, CA 95616
phone: 530-752-1272
fax: 530-752-1449

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