PhD position in Evolutionary Biology/Fish Biology (Junior Research Fellow)

Updated: 4 months ago
Job Type: FullTime
Deadline: 18 Jun 2021

Fulltime 4-year PhD position on multifaceted mechanisms of humic adaptation in fish

Topic: Genotype and environment interactions in Eurasian perch: analysis of morphological, physiological and behavioural traits

Project description

We are seeking an enthusiastic PhD student for studying morphological, physiological and behavioural mechanisms of adaptation to dark and acidic environment in Eurasian perch. The successful PhD candidate will be part of an active international team working with ecology, genomics and molecular ecology of aquatic organisms at the Estonian University of Life Sciences.

Understanding the process of adaptation is one of the most active fields of research in evolutionary biology but despite enormous interest and a growing number of analysis tools, it is still a daunting task to obtain a comprehensive picture of the mechanisms of local adaptation at different levels of biological complexity. Humic lakes typically exhibit low pH (3.5-4.5), reduced oxygen (O2) concentrations, strong O2 and temperature stratification, reduced light penetration and a shift towards longer wavelengths. One of the very few fish species that is able to thrive in both dark and clear water habitats is Eurasian perch (Perca fluviatilis). It is therefore expected that perch populations inhabiting humic lakes would have evolved specific adaptations at multiple levels of biological organization that allow to succeed in poor light, low pH and oxygen saturation conditions. The proposed research represents a concerted effort to advance our knowledge about genetic and environmental components responsible for adaptation to humic environment by combining experimental crossing, common garden experiments and field studies with analysis of wide range of morphological, physiological and behavioural traits.

More specifically, the PhD project aims at:

1. Characterizing the genotype-environment interactions in morphological, physiological and behavioural traits (incl. the distribution, type and number of neuromasts, eye size, pigmentation, transcript abundances, boldness and feeding efficiency).

2. Characterizing the genotype-environment interactions of egg survival and sperm properties in relation to low pH, humic substances and ion pump blockers.

3. Characterizing the genetic architecture and functional consequences of variation in lateral line morphology.

Qualifications required: To be eligible for a PhD-student position the applicant must hold a master's degree (or equivalent) in Evolutionary Biology, Ecology, Physiology, Population Genetics, Bioinformatics or a related field. Candidates must be able to express themselves in spoken as well as written English.

Qualifications desired: We are looking for a highly motivated candidate with experience in evolutionary biology, ecology, physiology, genomics, or other closely related fields of research. It is desirable that candidates are familiar with one or more programming languages (such as Python, Perl, or R) and statistics.

Application: The preliminary application should include 1) a letter of intent describing yourself, your research interests and motivation of why you want to do a PhD, and why you are suitable for the position, 2) your complete CV, including a short description of your education, 3) a copy of your master thesis if available and your course grades, 4) the names and contact information to at least two reference persons (e-mail address and phone no.). The application should be written in English and sent to: and . Please submit your preliminary application at the latest by 18st of June 2021

Deadline for submitting of formal application (upon approval of preliminary application by supervisors): 1st of July 2021

List of documents to be submitted:

1. Completed application form at

2. Doctoral thesis project - recognized by the supervisor at Estonian University of Life Sciences

3. Academic curriculum vitae (CV)

4. Copy of the passport page stating the applicant´s personal particulars

5. An official copy of the diploma and diploma supplement (transcript of records/ mark sheet) of the preceding study levels* in the original language. Official documents must be provided from the institution awarding the degree or certified with an Apostille.

6. Official translation of the diplomas and diploma supplements into English

7. One of the following language certificates:

  • A recent TOEFL Certificate: only internet-based test scores are accepted, with the minimum score being 61. The result must be sent directly to the University by the Educational Testing Service. TOEFL designated institution code for the Estonian University of Life Sciences is 7708.
  • A recent IELTS Certificate: minimum score: 5.0;
  • A recent First Certificate in English of the University of Cambridge;
  • A recent PTE (academic): minimum score 51).
  • An official certificate from the higher educational establishment if the medium of instruction was English during the whole period of studies.

*Candidates from non-EU countries: required are also certified copies of secondary school leaving certificate and transcript.

Documents must be sent via and via regular post to:

Diana Pungar

Doctoral School

Estonian University of Life Sciences

Kreutzwaldi 1

51006 Tartu


Starting date: September 2021 or as otherwise agreed.

Salary/Scholarship: According to local agreement for PhD students (approximately 1500 EUR/month).

Position: Fixed term position of junior research fellow according to the Higher Education Act chapter 5 § 33-34 ( ). The PhD program covers four years of full-time study. The salary/scholarship will be set according to local agreements. Rules governing PhD candidates are set out in the Higher Education Act Chapter 3, §§ 12-13 ( ) and in Estonian University of Life Sciences' rules and guidelines ( ). More information about PhD studies at Estonian University of Life Sciences is available at and about studies in Estonia in general at .

Who we are: Estonian University of Life Sciences ( ) is the only university in Estonia whose priorities in academic and research activities provide the sustainable development of natural resources necessary for the existence of Man as well as the preservation of heritage and habitat. According to QS World University Rankings by Subject (2020), the Estonian University of Life Sciences is one of top 100 universities in the world in the field of agriculture and forestry. The University has >3000 students and >900 staff.

Institute of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Sciences is composed of 7 chairs. It performs high-level modern teaching and research and development activities in fields of veterinary medicine, aquaculture, animal nutrition, reproductive biology, genetics, breeding and biotechnology, food hygiene and food technology.

The Chair of Aquaculture ( ) is the only aquaculture competence center in Estonia that provides high-quality undergraduate and postgraduate academic education and lifelong continuous education in aquaculture, which is based on fundamental and applied research. The research is carried out in various topics related to aquaculture and management and conservation of endangered fish and crayfish species: artificial reproduction, feeding and rearing technologies in recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS), domestication and selective breeding (heritability estimates of important traits, QTL mapping), population, conservation and ecological genetics, genomics and transcriptomics (genetic diversity, adaptation, host-parasite co-evolution, gene expression), biology and ecology of indigenous and non-indigenous crayfish species, diseases of fish and crayfish etc.

Further information about the position: Professor Anti Vasemägi ( ) and Chair Professor Riho Gross ( )

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