PhD opportunity - Univ. Göteborg

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Type of employment: Fixed-term employment, Four years
Extent: 100 %
Location: Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, Göteborg
First day of employment: 2014-04-01 or upon agreement
Reference number: UR 2013/1361

The new Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences (BioEnv) is the result of a merger between the former departments of Marine Ecology, Plant and Environmental Sciences and Zoology.
Our teaching and research activities stretch from the alpine ecosystem, through forests, cultivated land and streams, all the way into the marine environment. In these environments we study different levels of biological organization from genes, individuals and populations, to communities and ecosystems. We work within ecology, evolution, physiology, systematics and combinations of these fields in order to understand the impact of natural and anthropogenic changes of the environment. The department is placed at four different localities: in the Gothenburg Botanical Garden (GBT), on the Medicinareberget campus (both in central Gothenburg), and at two marine research stations (Kristineberg and Tjärnö). The successful applicant will be based at the botanical garden in Gothenburg.

Project description: The project “Phylogenetic and biogeographic analysis of the genus Pavonia using gene capture and Next Generation Sequencing” seeks to answer the following questions: How are the species of Pavoniarelated? Are the polyploids in the genus of hybrid origin, and thus is the phylogeny a network? Is there a pattern in the timing of when polyploidy arose? What is the biogeographic history of the genus? What factors (e.g., geographic, edaphic, biotic) can explain the high number of species in the neotropics?

The plant genus Pavonia (Malvaceae) contains about 250 species distributed between Africa, the Americas, Asia and Australia, the majority of which are endemic to the Neotropics. The chromosome numbers of several species are known, suggesting that the genus contains species of 4x, 6x, 8x and 16x ploidy. The flowers of some species appear to be specialised for bird pollination. Examples can also be found where the corolla is reduced and the calyx and epicalyx are pigmented, presumably taking over the role of attracting pollinators. The genus is found in a wide variety of habitats, including mangrove environments, rain forests, seasonally dry deciduous forests and savannas.

Many species are narrowly distributed and collectively found in various biomes in Central and South America, making the group highly suitable for historical biogeographic analysis. However, the high probability of allopolyploidy (hybrid polyploidy) occurring in the group also creates an analytical challenge, given that current methods use phylogenetic trees, rather than networks, to address historical biogeographic questions. Thus, there is scope within the project for significant methodological development, probably in collaboration with theoretical systematists/mathematicians.


Job assignments


The PhD student will collect data for dozens of loci (>50) simultaneously using gene capture and Next Generation Sequencing, currently underway in our research group for other organisms. The phylogenetic analysis will include the assessment of gene tree incongruence and how this relates to the species/genome tree, including the use of the multispecies coalescent model. These aspects of the project place it at forefront of molecular systematics, making for an exciting and advanced PhD for a suitably motivated candidate.

The PhD student will carry out original research in consultation with the supervisors. Complete coursework throughout the period of appointment (totaling 60 hp, or about 1 year’s full time study). Communicate your results in the form of scientific articles, conference presentations, etc. and write a PhD thesis. The PhD student will be jointly supervised by associate professors Alexandre Antonelli and Bernard Pfeil.




The qualifications for education on a doctoral level are: degree in advanced level, at least 240 university points, of which 60 are on an advanced level, or in an other way acquired similar knowledge. This degree should emphasize biology, and especially systematics/biodiversity. Good English communication skills (both written and verbal), including the capacity to teach in English.

Documented ability to undertake basic research under supervision (e.g., by having published in an appropriate peer-reviewed journal, or produced a research thesis). Good knowledge of molecular systematic theory and concepts. Competence in phylogenetic analysis methods.




Regulations for the evaluation of qualifications for education on a doctoral level are given in SFS 1998:80.

Desirable: Competence in routine molecular systematics laboratory skills (e.g., DNA extraction, PCR, gel electrophoresis) Research experience in plant molecular systematics Understanding of the phylogenetic challenges related to hybrids and polyploids Experience with NGS data gathering and processing Basic scripting/programming skills.

We are seeking a candidate who is independent, self-motivated and interested in the use or development of new methods and approaches; in short, a person willing to go beyond the state-of-the-art in the field. We will attach great importance to personal characteristics and independence in learning and working, creativity and documented productivity. In filling this position the department aims to recruit the person who, in the combined assessment of experience, skills and qualifications, is deemed most likely to successfully carry out the job tasks and to contribute to the systematics research group.


Additional information


Further information about the group’s activities can be found at:


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