PhD position on 'Quantifying Sexual Selection in a Simultaneous Hermaphrodite' (Switzerland) ~

11 de octubre de 2012

PhD position on 'Quantifying Sexual Selection in a Simultaneous Hermaphrodite' (Switzerland)

A 3-year full-time PhD position, funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation, is available in the group of Lukas Scharer, at the Zoological Institute, University of Basel, Switzerland ( The ideal starting date is January 2013 (but there is some flexibility regarding this).

Our research focuses on the evolutionary ecology of reproduction in simultaneous hermaphrodites, using a highly suitable model organism, the free-living marine flatworm Macrostomum lignano ( Our research integrates a diversity of approaches, including controlled laboratory experiments, molecular developmental biology, quantitative genetics, genomics, field work, molecular phylogenetics and comparative methods. The practical work for this PhD project will primarily involve breeding experiments in the lab, a range of molecular biology approaches, and some field work in the Mediterranean Sea.

One central aim of the project is to describe and quantify sexual selection on different male and female reproductive traits along the pre- to post-copulatory axis, using a state of the art approach based on Bateman's principles that we have recently extended to hermaphrodites (see Anthes et al. 2010, Am. Nat.). Recently established transgenic GFP-expressing worms now allow us to track the sperm cells of GFP-positive sperm donors in their GFP-negative partners in vivo (think 'watching sperm at work'), and we can use the same GFP marker for extremely efficient paternity analysis.

Moreover, we have recently established tools that allow us to manipulate different reproductive traits using dosage-dependent RNA interference of specific reproductive genes (see e.g. Sekii et al. 2009, BMC Dev Biol). We are now taking advantage of next generation sequencing approaches (whole-genome and transcriptome sequencing, and gene expression studies using RNAseq) to identify additional relevant genes. Thus the other central aim of the project will be to experimentally validate the importance of (at least some of) the traits identified with the first aim (think 'phenotypic engineering of sexually selected traits').

Finally, the work will be performed in collaboration with a PostDoc to be hired on the same project. This PostDoc will likely focus on the quantitative genetics, genetic architecture, and indirect genetic effects of a broad range of reproductive traits in this system, thus complementing the aims of the project of the PhD student. However, the specific interests, skills, and backgrounds of the PhD and PostDoc candidates will have a considerable influence on the scope of the work, and there is ample room for developing own ideas and approaches. The study system offer tremendous opportunities for sexual selection and sexual conflict research.

The successful PhD candidate will be independent, dedicated, inquisitive, creative, and collaborative. Moreover, he/she should have a keen interest in evolutionary biology and must be willing to learn new techniques and statistical approaches. Previous experience in molecular biology is a clear advantage, but not a prerequisite. A MSc or equivalent education level is required for this PhD position and the handsome salary is in accordance to the standards of the Swiss National Science Foundation.

The Scharer group belongs to the Evolutionary Biology at the Zoological Institute, University of Basel, a stimulating and highly international research environment with English as the predominant language (a recent count yielded ~20 nationalities). The other groups focus on host-parasite interactions (Ebert), speciation in cichlids (Salzburger) and sticklebacks (Berner), evolution of the immune system (Du Pasquier), behavioral ecology of birds (Amrhein), and parent-offspring conflicts (Kölliker) (see Our Institute has a strong background in experimental design, statistics, population genetics, quantitative genetics, genomics and molecular biology. So it is an ideal place for a PhD candidate interested in evolutionary biology.

Basel is the third largest city of Switzerland and attractively situated at the foot of the Jura mountain range. It has the beautiful river Rhine, and directly borders both Germany and France, thus offering rich culinary, cultural, and outdoor possibilities.

To apply, please send a letter of motivation, a CV, contact details of 2 referees, and a copy of your MSc-thesis (if available) (electronic applications in a single file are preferred). Reviewing of applications starts on October 31, but applications will be considered until the position is filled.

For more details about our research please visit


PD Dr. Lukas Scharer
Evolutionary Biology
Zoologial Institute
University of Basel
Vesalgasse 1
4051 Basel

Tel:      ++41 61 267 03 66
Fax:      ++41 61 267 03 62

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