Job Announcement
University of Greifswald, Zoological Institute and Museum

PhD position in Animal Ecology

Application deadline: 19.01.2018.

The Zoological Institute and Museum at the University of Greifswald invites applications for a PhD position within the Research Training Group RESPONSE:

Starting date: April 1st 2018.

Duration: 3 years.
Salary: German salary scale (TV-L 13, 65%).

Thesis topics: Genetic and environmental effects on the morphology, physiology and behaviour of a European butterfly.

Background: In holometabolous insects, adult characteristics are largely determined during their early stages of life (eggs, larvae). Accordingly, we recently found that Pieris napi butterflies exposed to a high temperature as pre-adults showed smaller wings, higher wing loading, and a change in the ratio between their forewing and hindwing when adults. Interestingly, these effects varied with the latitudinal origin of butterflies. This suggests that early thermal conditions may determine the ability of adult butterflies to disperse, and that these effects vary between populations. However, such changes in flight ability are likely to generate trade-offs with other energy-demanding functions (e.g. physiology, thermal tolerance), which may ultimately limit the dispersal potential of butterflies.

Goals of the project: Here, we will investigate plastic and genetic variation in the morphology (wing characteristics, pigmentation, body mass, thorax musculature), physiology (oxidative status, immune response, lipid composition, cuticle desiccation resistance, pigmentation) and behaviour (flight characteristics) of the butterfly Pieris napi exposed to different thermal regimes as pre-adults. We will use replicated populations of P. napi across a latitudinal gradient across Europe (i.e.from warm to cold environments) to establish the interrelations between these parameters and to examine their heritability under variable environmental conditions. Specifically, we will test the following hypotheses: (1) morphological, physiological and behavioural characteristics are inter-related; (2) the effects of early thermal conditions on the morphology, the physiology and the behaviour of butterflies vary with the latitudinal origin of butterflies, (3) flight ability determined by early thermal conditions is negatively related to the thermal tolerance of adults, (4) heritability of the investigated traits is not significantly affected by thermal conditions (parent-offspring regressions will be used to estimate heritability). Most of the project will be conducted in captivity but will also involve some fieldwork. This project will be conducted in collaboration with research partners at the Universities of Greifswald, Koblenz-Landau, Ljubliana and Amsterdam.

Required skills:

  • Strong background in behavioural and evolutionary ecology
  • Interest, knowledge and previous experience with biochemical analyses
  • Knowledge in experimental design, data handling and statistical analyses
  • Interest in entomology and lepidopterology
  • Expertise in field methods (preferentially with insects and butterflies)
  • Interest in flight biomechanics
  • Good command of English; basic knowledge in German would be an advantage
  • Organizational skills, willingness and ability to work in a team

 To apply, please visit our website:

Applications (application form, CV, degree certificates, motivation letter, two recommendation letters) can be sent to:,, Forms and more information can be found here:

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