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Two PhD positions: Cross-scale plant-pollinator network dynamics in Zürich

Studierende finden an der ETH Zürich ein Umfeld, das eigenständiges Denken fördert, Forschende ein Klima, das zu Spitzenleistungen inspiriert.


100%, Zurich, fixed-term

The Ecosystem Management group at ETH Zurich is offering two fully funded 4-year PhD positions to address plant-pollinator network structure and dynamics along land use intensification gradients in India coffee agroforestry landscapes. We are seeking applicants with interests and skills in (1) pollination and landscape ecology, and/or (2) molecular ecology, including pollen metabarcoding and eDNA approaches. The positions will require extensive periods of field work in India, as well as laboratory-based genetic research.

The project is led by Prof. Jaboury Ghazoul, and includes collaboration with Prof. Loic Pellissier and Prof. Kristy Deiner (ETH Zurich), Prof. Jordi Bascompte (University of Zurich), Dr Ravikanth (Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment), Mr Nanaya and Prof. Kushalappa (University of Shimoga and College of Forestry, Karnataka).

Project background

Changing land cover and land use intensification affects the structure of plant-pollinator interaction networks, which is likely to affect emergent ecosystem properties. In understanding such changes and their underlying processes, we can better inform land management strategies to restore biodiversity, and ecosystem productivity and resilience. Across land use intensification gradients in Indian coffee agroforestry systems, this project will explore how plant-pollinator networks are affected by local agroforest plant diversity, land cover patterns at landscape scales, and interactions across these scales. We will evaluate how network attributes and dynamics are determined by functional traits of plants (floral morphology and resource provision) and pollinators (body size and life history strategy), and by variations in the densities and occurrences of two honeybee species. Network structure and dynamics will be related to functional outcomes of coffee production and plant pollination, providing both economic and conservation relevance.

We will use a combination of remote sensing and drone-based mapping, observational studies of pollinators, pollen metabarcoding, and eDNA approaches, to construct plant-pollinator networks at across a range of management intensities. Networks metrics that pertain to network resilience will be analysed in relation to interactions among compositional and landscape heterogeneities, and plant and pollinator functional traits. We will further evaluate the impact of social bees on network structure and resilience. In view of the complex interplay of land covers, plant and pollinator community richness, species traits, and interactions across scales, we will assess plausible causal pathways using structural equation modelling. The outcomes of our work will contribute to the understanding multi-trophic ecological dynamics in the context of land use change across scales, and species functional traits.

Job description

Both PhD positions require field and laboratory research in plant-pollinator interactions, genetics, and spatial resource mapping using satellite and drone imagery. Several months of field work will be undertaken in India over the course of three years. We expect the appointed PhD students to work with, and coordinate when necessary, a team of research assistants and Masters students from India and Switzerland. The field research will be in partnership with the College of Forestry in Kodagu District, and will be undertaken in coffee agroforests in this landscape. The students will engage with coffee farmers in the region to source information about their management systems, and thus excellent skills in communictaion and outreach will be expected. The students will work together to secure the required data, and will need to coordinate their research activities. Finally, we expect good statistical modelling skills, and fluency in spoken and written English.

The position will be based at ETH Zurich in the Ecosyszem Management Group, though will also require collaboration with other groups at ETH Zurich and the University of Zurich.

Your profile

We are seeking two candidates with experience in ecology and/or genetics, incuding the following interests, skills, and expertise:

  • A relevant Masters degree and strong ecological interest and experience
  • Field research experience, especially in the tropics, and willingness to work in remote field locations
  • Skills in at least one of the following: molecular ecology, plant-pollinator interactions, and/or landscape ecology
  • Good laboratory competency
  • Good quantitative analytical skills including, for example, analysis of bipartite interaction networks and Structural Equation Modelling
  • Excellent communication and independent working abilities
  • Fluency in spoken and written English

Suitable candidates would need to:

  • be flexible and adaptable to changing circumstances
  • independently manage and coordinate their research activities
  • work as part of a team, and coordinate a small team of research assistants
  • have excellent communication skills to engage with local stakeholders and experts in India and Switzerland
  • be prepared to conducts extended periods of field work in India, and labwork in India and Switzerland
Your workplace
Your workplace

We offer

The Ecosystem Management group undertakes ecological research set within the context of complex socio-ecological landscapes. Research in the group includes inter- and trans-discipinary approaches, providing opportunities to learn and exchange ideas across a wide range of environmental issues. The group also provides opportunities for personal and professional development through training courses, teaching and field courses, and seminar programmes. The group has many collaborative projects with other research groups based in Zurich, as well as a variety of universities located internationally.

We value diversity
In line with , ETH Zurich encourages an inclusive culture. We promote equality of opportunity, value diversity and nurture a working and learning environment in which the rights and dignity of all our staff and students are respected. Visit our to find out how we ensure a fair and open environment that allows everyone to grow and flourish.
Curious? So are we.

We look forward to receiving your online application with the following documents:

  • Motivation letter explaining your experience and suitability for the position, and reasons for wanting to do a PhD.
  • A CV detailing education and training, previous work experience, and any publications.
  • Names and addresses of at least two references.

As we are offering two PhDs in this project, please indicate whether your interests relate to ecological research on plant-pollinator inetractions, or molecular genetics, or both.

Please note that we exclusively accept applications submitted through our online application portal. Applications via email or postal services will not be considered.

The deadline for applications is 24 November 2023. We will hold interviews in early December, and expect the position to start in March 2024.

Further information about the Department of Environmental Systems Science and the Ecosystem Management group can be found on our . Questions regarding the position should be directed to Prof. Jaboury Ghazoul, email: jaboury.ghazoul@env.ethz.ch (no applications).

About ETH Zürich
ETH Zurich is one of the world’s leading universities specialising in science and technology. We are renowned for our excellent education, cutting-edge fundamental research and direct transfer of new knowledge into society. Over 30,000 people from more than 120 countries find our university to be a place that promotes independent thinking and an environment that inspires excellence. Located in the heart of Europe, yet forging connections all over the world, we work together to develop solutions for the global challenges of today and tomorrow.

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