Job announcement
University of Kiel, GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research

PhD - Evolutionary Ecology of Marine Fishes

Application deadline 16.05.2017

GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel is a foundation of public law jointly financed by the Federal Republic of Germany (90%) and the state of Schleswig-Holstein (10%) and is one of the internationally leading institutions in the field of marine sciences. Currently GEOMAR disposes over an annual budget of approx. 72 million Euro and has approx. 950 employees.

The research unit "Evolutionary Ecology of Marine Fishes" is offering a

PhD position

in the DFG funded project Convergent evolution of immunological tolerance in female and male pregnancy. The Principal Investigator is Dr. Olivia Roth (GEOMAR, Kiel) in collaboration with Dr. Sissel Jentoft (Centre for Evolutionary and Ecological Synthesis (CEES), Oslo, Norway) and Dr. Till Bayer (GEOMAR, Kiel). A close cooperation with a co-PhD student who is already employed in the project and a postdoc for whom the search will start soon is expected.

Job Description
We are looking for a motivated and enthusiastic applicant, who shares our fascination for the immune system and male pregnancy in pipefishes and seahorses, and who feels inspired to devote himself to the evolution and genetic basis of male pregnancy using experimental, molecular biological and bioinformatic tools. The start date is as soon as possible.

Project Description
Viviparity has evolved multiple times independently in the animal kingdom. In addition to specific morphological reorganizations, major changes in the immunological tolerance were indispensably associated with the evolution of pregnancy and placentation in mammals. Only if the embryo is immunologically tolerated, a successful pregnancy of non-self tissue within the womb is permitted. These processes remain severely understudies in other vertebrates. The group parental investment and immune dynamics led by Dr. Olivia Roth investigates the evolution of mating systems in the most species-rich vertebrate group, the teleosts. Our research focuses on the evolution of immunological tolerance in male pregnancy of pipefishes and seahorses (syngnathids). This project aims to shed light on how male pregnancy coevolved with rearrangements of the adaptive immune system. With comparative genomics, transcriptomics and gene knock-in and knock-out, we aim to examine the genetic basis of trait loss and gain, and will highlight which genes with different original functions were recruited (gene co-option), and which were newly established during the evolution of parental investment.

The successful applicant will focus on mating experiments followed by comparative transcriptomics over the reproductive phase of several Syngnathiformes species, displaying a range from parental investment (solely egg and sperm provisioning to female and male pregnancy) and sex roles (from conventional to reversed). Combined with the comparative genomics approach (co-PhD student) and gene knock-in and knock-out over CRISPR-cas (postdoc) we aim to shed light on the convergent evolution of parental investment.

The GEOMAR, the University of Kiel and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology in Plon are part of a stimulating research environment for Evolutionary Biology in Germany. The PhD student will join one of our two graduate schools, either the International Max-Planck-Research School for Evolutionary Biology (IMPRS) or the Integrated School of Ocean Sciences (ISOS). Kiel is the capital of the most Northern state of Germany, directly located at the coast of the Baltic Sea. Kiel offers many opportunities for leisure activity, in particular people enjoying watersports will love the environment.

The successful candidate is required to have a Master in Biology, to be highly motivated and able to interact with a team of researchers. A background in evolutionary biology and the knowledge of immunological and molecular biology, as well as experience in the analysis of next-generation sequencing data are desirable. Experience in fish handling and aquaria experiments would be advantageous.

Salary is according to the scale for public servants TvÖD 13 (65%), the project duration is three years. The working language of our group is English. The GEOMAR seeks to increase the proportion of female scientists and explicitly encourages qualified female academics to apply. GEOMAR is an equal opportunity employer and encourages scientists with disabilities to apply. Qualified disabled applicants will receive preference in the application process.

Please send your application including a curriculum vitae, a one-page statement of research interests and a letter of motivation, along with names and addresses of two referees as a single pdf file by email to under the heading Converge Preg. The closing date is May 16, 2017.

For further information regarding the position and research unit please contact Olivia Roth (, phone number: ++49 431 600 4557). GEOMAR is a member of the Helmholtz Association and the German Marine Research Consortium (KDM). For further information about GEOMAR, please visit or, and on the group parental investment and immune dynamics, please visit

© 19.04.2017 Deutsche Zoologische Gesellschaft e.V., DZG