PhD Position in Ecology and Spatial Phylogenetics

Trondheim, Norway
15 Mar 2019
End of advertisement period
10 Apr 2019
Academic Discipline
Life sciences, Biological Sciences
Contract Type
Full Time

About the position

The NTNU University Museum is seeking a highly qualified, ambitious and motivated candidate for a PhD-position in Ecology and Spatial Phylogenetics. The position will investigate the functional and phylogenetic basis of trophic interactions across large spatial scales. The project will assess functional and phylogenetic diversity of plants, herbivores and predators across Fennoscandia, and use eDNA metabarcoding to identify trophic interactions. The candidate will investigate functional and phylogenetic associations across trophic interactions, and use these to predict novel interactions and patterns in communities. The outcome of this project will help form a general understanding of trophic interactions across space and time.

The appointment has a duration of 3 years. The position is available from June 1th 2019, thus master students graduating close to this date can apply. The PhD student will collaborate with researchers within Norway and internationally and will gain experience in biogeography, community ecology, phylogenetics and eDNA analyses. The PhD will be supervised by Associate Professors James D.M. Speed, Mika Bendiksby and Michael D. Martin at the Department of Natural History.

Job description

Trophic interactions control the flow of energy through ecological communities, and at the same time shape ecosystems through trophic cascades. Biological communities are currently undergoing great change – species are becoming extinct at an unprecedented rate and at the same time, humans introduce others into novel environments. It is therefore vital to understand and predict trophic interactions over large spatial scales and through time. This PhD project will integrate phylogenetics and functional traits with biogeography in order to achieve this.

In this project, the successful applicant will:

  • Characterise contemporary plant, vertebrate herbivore and predator assemblages in terms of species, phylogenetic and functional trait composition across Fennoscandia. This will involve developing plant and animal phylogenies and functional trait classifications.
  • Use species distribution data to map species, functional and phylogenetic diversity of three trophic levels across the study region, and test environmental drivers of the distribution patterns.
  • Review literature sources and undertake metabarcoding of dietary eDNA (from faeces, pellets etc.) to develop regional food webs. Samples will be taken from different regions and seasons (fieldwork may be required) and analyses will include historical samples to provide a temporal component.
  • Test for functional and phylogenetic associations between trophic levels, and use these to generalise and predict trophic interactions in time and space.

Qualification requirements

PhD candidate:

The PhD-position's main objective is to qualify for work in research positions. The qualification requirement is completion of a master’s degree or second degree (equivalent to 120 credits) with a strong academic background in biology (particularly relevant themes are ecology, biodiversity or biosystematics) or equivalent education with a grade of B or better in terms of NTNU’s grading scale. Applicants with no letter grades from previous studies must have an equally good academic foundation. Applicants who are unable to meet these criteria may be considered only if they can document that they are particularly suitable candidates for education leading to a PhD degree.

The appointment is to be made in accordance with the regulations in force concerning State Employees and Civil Servants and national guidelines for appointment as PhD, postdoctor and research assistant

Other qualifications required

  • Documented strength in handling and analysing large ecological data sets
  • Good programming skills in a relevant programming language (R or similar)
  • Excellent written and verbal communication ability in English

Desirable qualifications

  • Experience with DNA-based wet lab work
  • Experience with biogeographical analyses
  • Experience with one or more of phylogenetic, eDNA and functional trait analyses
  • Knowledge of northern ecosystems
  • Experience of research in trophic ecology

Personal characteristics

  • Excellent cooperative skills
  • High motivation
  • Ability to deliver
  • Highly goal-oriented

In the evaluation of which candidate is best qualified, emphasis will be placed on education, experience and personal suitability, as well as motivation, in terms of the qualification requirements specified in the advertisement

We offer

Salary and conditions

PhD candidates are remunerated in code 1017, and are normally remunerated at gross from NOK 449 400 before tax per year. From the salary, 2 % is deducted as a contribution to the Norwegian Public Service Pension Fund.

The period of employment is 3 years. Appointment to a PhD position requires admission to the PhD programme in biology 

As a PhD candidate, you undertake to participate in an organized PhD programme during the employment period. A condition of appointment is that you are in fact qualified for admission to the PhD programme within three months.

Appointment takes place on the terms that apply to State employees at any time, and after the appointment you must assume that there may be changes in the area of work.

General information

Working at NTNU

A good work environment is characterized by diversity. We encourage qualified candidates to apply, regardless of their gender, functional capacity or cultural background. Under the Freedom of Information Act (offentleglova), information about the applicant may be made public even if the applicant has requested not to have their name entered on the list of applicants.

About the application:

Applicants should include a CV, names of two references and a letter describing how this position fits their career plan, ambitions and interests. Publications and other academic works that the applicant would like to be considered in the evaluation must accompany the application. Joint works will be evaluated. If it is difficult to identify the individual applicant's contribution to joint works, the applicant must include a brief description of his or her contribution. The master thesis (or a draft if not yet submitted) should also be attached to the application.

The position requires spoken and written fluency in the English language. Applicants from non-English-speaking countries outside Europe are encouraged to document English skills by an approved test. Approved tests are TOEFL, IELTS and Cambridge Certificate in Advanced English (CAE) or Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE).

For further information please contact James Speed (+47 73592251, e-mail:

Please submit your application electronically via with your CV, diplomas and certificates. Applicants invited for interview must include certified copies of transcripts and reference letters.

Application deadline: 10.04.2019

NTNU - knowledge for a better world

The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) creates knowledge for a better world and solutions that can change everyday life.

Department of Natural History

We conduct research in biogeography, biosystematics, evolutionary biology and ecology with a focus on biodiversity. The Department is responsible for developing and maintaining the Museum’s natural history collections, including the botanical gardens at Ringve in Trondheim and Kongsvoll in the Dovre mountains. The Department of Natural History is one of two departments in the NTNU University Museum

Deadline 10.04.2019
Employer NTNU - Norwegian University of Science and Technology
Municipality Trondheim
Scope Fulltime
Duration Temporary
Jobbnorge ID 167096

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