Job Announcement
University of Greifswald, Zoological Institute and Museum

PhD position in responses to changing environments in bats
- Life history responses

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%).

Project A3: Life history responses of bats to climate change 

Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Gerald Kerth & Dr. Caroline Schöner, Applied Zoology and Conservation 

Thesis topic: Relative importance of genetic and plastic responses to adverse weather conditions in long-lived bats. 

Background: Recent studies have reported decreasing body size as a response to climate change in various taxa (Nat. Clim. Change 1: 401). As body size and fecundity are often positively correlated, shrinking body size may lead to higher extinction risk. Interestingly, in a few species increasing body size in response to climate change has been observed, which may occur if warm weather is required for growth. However, the fitness implications of such poorly documented trends are unclear. Bats are particularly interesting for studying the potential impact of climate change on individual fitness and ultimately on population persistence, as bats are long-lived, of high conservation concern and as they show behaviours that allow them to cope with weather variation, such as social thermoregulation, torpor, and roost switching. 

Goals of the projects: This project aims at assessing to which fitness-relevant responses to adverse weather conditions are caused by genetic factors or phenotypic plasticity, and whether the relative impact of genetic versus plastic responses depends on local conditions or the respective species. Existing field and genetic data of up to 25 years will be combined with new (experimental) data collected during the project period to quantify the influence of weather conditions on the behaviour, morphology, reproductive success and/or survival of four bat species (M. bechsteinii, M. daubentonii, M. nattereri, Plecotusauritus). Multigenerational family pedigrees will allow us to measure the heritability of body size and other potential fitness relevant traits such as departure timing from the hibernaculum or age at first reproduction, using parent-offspring regression and animal models. We will test whether behavioural, demographic and morphological responses to varying weather conditions differ between syntopic bat species. We will also analyse to which extent local environmental conditions and social factors influence the fitness consequences of the observed responses to weather conditions. The relative importance of larger body size in response to increasing temperature, roosting behaviour and social factors (e.g. position in the social network) on fitness (survival, reproductive success) will be investigated together with local partners within RESPONSE and associated partners from the Max-Planck-Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock. 


  • Strong background in behavioral and evolutionary ecology 
  • Knowledge of statistics, data handling and graphics in R 
  • Expertise with databases such as mySQL 
  • Basic knowledge in modelling and computer simulations 
  • Profound knowledge of English (speaking and writing); basic knowledge in German 
  • Expertise in field methods (preferentially with bats) and to a lesser degree in population genetic techniques 
  • Organizational skills and ability to work in a team 
  • Driving license and willingness to use own car for field-work 

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:

© 08.01.2018 Deutsche Zoologische Gesellschaft e.V., DZG