PhD fellow in Weed Evolutionary Ecology

Updated: about 1 month ago
Deadline: 20 Jun 2021

Department of Plant and Environmental Science, Faculty of Science at University of Copenhagen is offering a PhD scholarship in plant evolutionary ecology commencing 01.11.2021 or as soon as possible thereafter.

Description of the scientific environment
The Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences conducts fundamental research and has a strong focus on applying basic science to solve real world challenges, primarily within the plant, soil and environmental sciences. Research and teaching cover natural resources, agriculture, biotechnology and synthetic biology from the molecular to landscape scales.

The weed ecology and evolution group investigates the eco-evolutionary processes that dictate the adaptation and persistence of weedy and invasive plants in agroecosystems. We have a gene to landscape focus using approaches from population and evolutionary genetics, evolutionary biology, plant ecology, modelling, epidemiology and crop science. Our basic research recognises that weedy plants are excellent models for studying rapid plant adaptation. We apply these insights to develop sustainable weed management strategies using eco-evolutionary principles.

Project description
Weedy plants can cause more crop yield loss than insect pests and pathogens combined. We still do not fully understand why some plants become successful weeds, but the ability to rapidly adapt in managed agricultural habitats is clearly important. Alopecurus myosuroides (blackgrass) is one of Europe’s most troublesome weeds, including in Denmark. This PhD addresses two important questions; (i) why has blackgrass become a major weed problem in the last 30-40 years in Europe and (ii) why is the species present as a non-weedy bystander in other global agroecosystems?

To address these questions, you will have access to a global collection of weedy and non-weedy blackgrass populations and to a recently completed reference genome. You will conduct classical plant ecological (common garden and reciprocal transplant) field experiments to measure phenotypic variation in traits that determine competitiveness and weediness in blackgrass, comparing these traits in global weedy and non-weedy populations. You will sample plant tissue, extract high-quality DNA, and outsource genome sequencing services that enable plant genotyping-by-sequencing (GBS). These sequencing data will be analysed using open-source population genetics software to explore patterns of genetic differentiation within and amongst global blackgrass populations and to infer patterns of relatedness, evolution, and dispersal.

As a PhD student in the weed ecology and evolution group, you will carry out exciting research to answer questions about the evolution of one of the world’s most economically damaging plants. You will receive training in plant ecology and evolution, plant molecular biology, and statistical population genetics. You will work closely with postdoctoral scientists in the group (weed ecology, evolution, and genetics) and collaborate with the International Weed Genomics Consortium ( ) of which University of Copenhagen is a research partner.

Principal supervisor is Professor Paul Neve, Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, , Phone: +45 29611199.


Job description
The position is available for a 3-year period and your key tasks as a PhD student at SCIENCE are:

  • To manage and complete your research project (literature review and summary, generation of objectives and hypothesis, experimental design, data collection, analysis and interpretation)
  • Attend PhD courses
  • Write scientific articles and your PhD thesis
  • Teach and disseminate your research
  • To stay at an external research institution for a few months, preferably abroad
  • Work for the department if suitable opportunities arise 

Formal requirements
Applicants should hold an MSc degree in plant, environmental/ecological, agricultural or biotechnological science with good results and good English skills. As criteria for the assessment of your qualifications, emphasis will also be laid on previous publications (if any) and relevant work experience. Candidates with experience in plant ecology and/or plant production, basic plant molecular biology and appropriate data analytical techniques will be given priority.

Terms of employment
The position is covered by the Memorandum on Job Structure for Academic Staff.
Terms of appointment and payment accord to the agreement between the Ministry of Finance and The Danish Confederation of Professional Associations on Academics in the State.
The starting salary is currently at a minimum DKK 330,817 (approx. €44,108) including annual supplement (+ pension at a minimum DKK 53,811). Negotiation for salary supplement is possible.

Application Procedure
The application, in English, must be submitted electronically by clicking APPLY NOW below.

Please include

  • Cover Letter, stating which PhD project you are applying for and detailing your motivation and background for applying for the specific PhD project.
  • CV
  • Diploma and transcripts of records (BSc and MSc)
  • Other information for consideration, e.g. list of publications (if any)
  • 1-3 reference letters (if any)

Reference letters must be uploaded by the applicant him/herself. The recruiting person must NOT obtain reference letters which content is not known to the applicant him/herself. This is against Danish law. 

The University wishes our staff to reflect the diversity of society and thus welcomes applications from all qualified candidates regardless of personal background.

The deadline for applications is Sunday 20 June 2021, 23:59 GMT +1.

After the expiry of the deadline for applications, the authorized recruitment manager selects applicants for assessment on the advice of the Interview Committee. Afterwards an assessment committee will be appointed to evaluate the selected applications. The applicants will be notified of the composition of the committee and the final selection of a successful candidate will be made by the Head of Department, based on the recommendations of the assessment committee and the interview committee.

The main criterion for selection will be the research potential of the applicant and the above-mentioned skills. The successful candidate will then be requested to formally apply for enrolment as a PhD student at the PhD school of Science.

You can read more about the recruitment process at  . 

For specific information about the PhD scholarship, please contact: Professor Paul Neve, Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, , Phone: +45 29611199

General information about PhD programmes at SCIENCE is available at .

Part of the International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU), and among Europe’s top-ranking universities, the University of Copenhagen promotes research and teaching of the highest international standard. Rich in tradition and modern in outlook, the University gives students and staff the opportunity to cultivate their talent in an ambitious and informal environment. An effective organisation – with good working conditions and a collaborative work culture – creates the ideal framework for a successful academic career.

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