PhD position in biology with emphasis on evolution and biogeography of arachnids in Caribbean caves

Updated: 6 months ago
Job Type: FullTime
Deadline: 2 Oct 2023 - 12:55 (Atlantic/Reykjavik)

8 Sep 2023
Job Information

University of Iceland

Faculty of Life and Environmental Sciences
Research Field

Biological sciences » Biology
Researcher Profile

First Stage Researcher (R1)

Application Deadline

2 Oct 2023 - 12:55 (Atlantic/Reykjavik)
Type of Contract

Job Status

Offer Starting Date

1 Jan 2024
Is the job funded through the EU Research Framework Programme?

Not funded by an EU programme
Is the Job related to staff position within a Research Infrastructure?


Offer Description

A full time Ph.D. position in biology with emphasis on collection of specimens and data, and data analyses, regarding speciation and biogeography of arachnids (spiders and others) in Caribbean caves (CarBio, is open for applications. The project will be done at the Agnarsson lab ( within the Biology section of the Faculty of Life and Environmental Sciences at the University of Iceland. The position is funded for three years by a University of Iceland doctoral grant.

Major projects and responsibilities

A major goal of the CarBio project is to investigate the biogeography, speciation history, and biodiversity of arachnids on Caribbean islands. The PhD project focuses on the role of caves in speciation at this famous biodiversity hotspot. The goal is to collect and analyze specimens from over 100 caves across the Caribbean archipelago and test the hypothesis that caves are speciation ´turbo engines´ that lead to extraordinary diversity of lineages that inhabit Caribbean caves. In order to reach that goal the PhD student will use samples from the Caribbean that the CarBio project has collected since 2011, in addition to new samples that the PhD student will in part collect in the field. We will employ powerful Next Generation Sequencing techniques (UCE´s 3RAD seq) to analyze genomic variability in order to establish the relationships among individuals and species of at least four unrelated lineages that have replicate history of colonizing caves. With these data, we will estimate geneflow, number of species, speciation history and biogeography (when and how species colonized islands and caves) and ultimately test the above stated hypothesis. Another major goal is the description of new species from the project and evaluating the conservation importance of Caribbean caves. The project will collaborate closely with Drs. Jason Bond (University of California Berkeley) and Jonathan Coddington (Smithsonian Institution), two of the world´s leading arachnologists in the fields of systematics/phylogenetics, evolution, biogeography and speciation patterns.

Background: Detecting the fundamental factors underlying the generation of biodiversity is a central goal in evolutionary biology. Many recognized hotspots of biological diversity are island archipelagos that combine richness with exceptionally high endemicity. Habitats, like mountaintops and caves, can be effective ‘islands’ when surrounded by a matrix of ‘non-habitat’. If the nature of islands drives diversification, geographically nested ‘islands within islands’ should generate high levels of spatially structured diversity. The >7000 caves of the Caribbean islands are an ideal arena for testing this prediction. Preliminary data indicate that many arachnid lineages in caves have undergone radiation among cave ‘islands’. Thus, Caribbean caves represent a vast but largely uncharted dimension of diversity within this biodiversity hotspot. The project performs the first systematic inventory of Caribbean cave arthropods (emphasis on arachnids) to test the hypothesis that cave systems on archipelagos—islands within islands—act as biodiversity ‘turbo engines’. The PhD student will complete work on existing specimens, and to lead new sampling effort and research to greatly expand the CarBio project. This project opportunistically banks on an ongoing mega-transect of epigean Caribbean arachnids setting the ideal stage to study the origin, biogeography, and comparative diversification patterns of related subterranean and epigean lineages.

Research Field
Biological sciences » Biology
Education Level
Master Degree or equivalent

  • A master’s degree in biology, molecular biology, computer sciences with emphasis on biology, or related disciplines.
  • Knowledge of evolutionary biology, genetics, and ecology is preferable.
  • Knowledge of the main tools of molecular biology in relation to systematics (DNA extraction, PCR, sequencing, sequence analyses).
  • Good programming skills and/or experience in the use of the R statistical environment.
  • Proficiency in English, both spoken and written.
  • Communicative skills and the ability to both work in groups and highly independently.

Hiring is conditional on a formal application for PhD studies at the University of Iceland within the School of Engineering and Natural Sciences and on the student’s acceptance into the program.

Specific Requirements

It is preferable that the student can start no later than January 2024.

Please provide the following documents and information with the application:

  • Description of how the applicant meets the above-mentioned requirements, why they are interested in the project, how they believe they can contribute to the project, and what expectations they have for the doctoral program (maximum 1 page).
  • Curriculum vitae (CV).
  • Copies of transcripts from undergraduate and master's studies, including grades.
  • Information about two referees (name, workplace, email address) along with their connection to the applicant.
  • Applicants are also invited to submit a PDF version of their master's thesis (in any language) and other relevant publications (maximum 5 documents).

All applications will be answered, and applicants will be notified of the job placement once a decision has been made. Applications can be valid for up to six months from the end of the application deadline.

Appointments to positions at the University of Iceland are made in consideration of the Equal Rights Policy of the University of Iceland -

The University of Iceland has a special Language Policy -  

The University of Iceland is a flourishing community of knowledge and is a very dynamic and interesting workplace. Our values are academic freedom, professionalism and equality. The University strives to provide flexibility and encourages participation in the development of the study programs and research in all fields within the realm of the University. The School of Engineering and Natural Sciences employs ca. 390 people involved with teaching and research. The School offers an international working environment, where currently about quarter of all employees and graduate students are international, and that number is increasing each year. The school has around 2000 students and numerous graduate students. The School of Engineering and Natural Sciences is proud of its’ diversity and reform-minded environment where knowledge acquisition and sharing is paramount.


Research Field
Biological sciences » Biology

Additional Information
Work Location(s)
Number of offers available
Faculty of Life and Environmental Sciences
Postal Code

Where to apply



Sæmundargata 6
Postal Code


[email protected]


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