PhD Candidate Evolutionary Biology
Closing date 16 September 2019
Level of education Master's degree
Hours 38 hours per week
Salary indication €2,325 to €2,972 gross per month
The Fall Armyworm (FAW) Spodoptera frugiperda (Lepidoptera, Noctuidae), a major pest in staple crops in North and South America, recently invaded Africa (first reported in 2016), where it is currently spreading with incredible speed. Currently, control of this pest insect mainly depends on chemical insecticides. Apart from being very expensive for most small-scale African farmers, these insecticides also pose a genuine health risk, since the knowledge and equipment required for a safe application are mostly lacking. Chemical insecticides negatively affect the environment and non-target species and, in addition, resistance towards these insecticides has already been reported. Therefore, there is a urgent need for safe, sustainable, environmental friendly alternative control measures that can be easily applied in the field by local farmers. Biological control methods that are currently used to control lepidopteran insect pests include pheromone trapping (trapping male moths using female pheromones) and the spraying of baculoviruses (killing caterpillars). However, a combination of both methods has not been explored, and might yield exciting opportunities for biological control, surpassing the effectiveness of each single method. This project aims to develop a sustainable attract-and-infect strategy for the control of the invading fall army worm in Africa.
The project involves two PhD students that will work together to:
- develop an African – European network of researchers and farmers (PhD1, PhD2 and supervisors);
- develop a successful attract strategy by studying and employing the local sex Spodoptera pheromone signatures (PhD1, supervised by Prof. Groot – UvA);
- develop a successful infect strategy using viruses that specifically kill S. frugiperda larvae (PhD2, supervised by Dr Ros – WUR);
- combine and disseminate the developed attract & infect strategy, enabling implementation by local farmers (PhD1 and PhD2 under joint supervision).
What are you going to do?
The current vacancy posted here concerns PhD1; PhD2 will be recruited through the WUR website. PhD1 is expected to:
- help to further develop an intensive network with research groups from icipe (Kenya), IITA (Benin and Togo), and through these local partners, with the farmers in these regions;
- collect larvae from different field sites to rear these to adults for lab and field experiments;
- conduct chemical analyses of individual females to identify region-specific sex pheromone blends;
- conduct lab and field experiments to test region-specific male responses to region-specific female signals;
- conduct population-genetic analyses to identify the species and strains of all collected moths, and to determine possible hybridization events with locally occuring, closely related Spodoptera species;
- closely collaborate with PhD2 to determine the effects of specific viruses on the sexual communication of the moths;
- be willing to spend at least half the time at field stations in East and West Africa;
- be communicative to all involved academic, industrial and farming partners.
What do we require?
- MSc in Biology, with interest in chemical ecology and entomology;
- experience with field work;
- experience with molecular biological techniques, preferably also with genetic analyses;
- interest to combine laboratory and field studies with genetic and chemical analyses;
- skills in experimental design and statistical analysis;
- proficiency in scientific writing and communication;
- ability to work in an international research team;
- fluency in English, both written and spoken;
- proficiency in French, at least spoken;
- willingness to assist in the education of BSc and MSc students.
A temporary employment contract for 38 hours per week, preferably starting at 1 October 2019 for the duration of 18 months. An extension for 30 months subsequently follows if we assess your performance positive. You will get a customized Training and Supervision Plan, that will be evaluated every year.
The salary, depending on relevant experience before the beginning of the employment contract, will be €2.325 to €2.972 (scale P) gross per month, based on fulltime (38 hours a week), exclusive 8 % holiday allowance and 8.3 end-of-year bonus. A favorable tax agreement, the ‘30% ruling’, may apply to non-Dutch applicants. The Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities is applicable.
Are you curious about our extensive package of secondary employment benefits like our excellent opportunities for study and development? Take a look at our website.
Do you have questions about this vacancy? Or do you want to know more about our organisation? Please contact:
Prof. Astrid T. Groot
T: + 31 (0)20 525 5400
About the Faculty of Science
The Faculty of Science has a student body of around 6,500, as well as 1,600 members of staff working in education, research or support services. Researchers and students at the Faculty of Science are fascinated by every aspect of how the world works, be it elementary particles, the birth of the universe or the functioning of the brain.
The Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED) is one of eight research institutes within the Faculty of Science at the University of Amsterdam. Our scientific work aims at a better understanding of the dynamics of ecosystems at all relevant levels, from genes to ecosystems, using a truly multi-disciplinary approach, and based on both experimental and theoretical research. We want to unravel how ecosystems function in all their complexity, and how they change due to natural processes and human activities.
Our research group focuses on the evolution of sexual attraction in moths, specifically to understand the causes and consequences of variation in sexual signals and responses, by identifying the genes underlying signals and responses and by determining which environmental factors affect variation in sexual attraction. For more information, see the Groot lab website.
The UvA is an equal-opportunity employer. We prioritise diversity and are committed to creating an inclusive environment for everyone. We value a spirit of enquiry and perseverance, provide the space to keep asking questions, and promote a culture of curiosity and creativity.
You may apply using the link below.
Applications should includ a motivation letter and CV, including a list of publications.
We will invite potential candidates for interviews on 25 and 27 september 2019.