2 PhD positions on the study of fossil DNA in Antarctic lake sediment cores in Annick Wilmotte laboratory and the other on eukaryotes in the lab of Elie Verleyen and Wim Vyverman

Three research positions (2 fully funded PhD fellowships, 1 PhD or Post-doc) in ‘Late Quaternary evolutionary dynamics of Cyanobacteria and eukaryote biota in Antarctic lakes’
Ghent University and the University of Liège are recruiting two PhD students who will be engaged in the recently started project HabitAnt: ‘Past and future habitability in Antarctic lakes: succession, colonization, extinction, and survival in glacial refugia’, funded by BelSPO BRAIN-BE. The project also includes the Royal Institute of Natural Sciences (Brussels) where the invertebrates will be studied by a research assistant (PhD or postdoc level).

Coupled climate and Earth-system models predict increased temperatures and altered precipitation patterns in vast regions of Maritime and coastal Continental Antarctica. These changes will likely result in more extensive glacial melt and the expansion of ice-free areas, increasing connectivity between regions, and changes in their hydrology. These projected environmental changes are expected to cause biotic homogenization between regions. Recent studies demonstrated that terrestrial and lacustrine biota in the Antarctic are more globally distinct and biogeographically structured than previously believed, due to the long-term survival and diversification of taxa in isolated glacial refugia. Hence, it is to be expected that biotic homogenisation will significantly increase the risk of extinction of endemic species and the spread of invasive species.
The students’ work will be organized to design two (or three) complementary PhD theses. They will use fossil DNA in lake sediment cores, and develop molecular phylogenies of focal taxa to study the processes that contributed to the present-day diversity of organisms in Antarctic lakes. The processes studied include the long-term persistence of biota in glacial refugia, and extinction, colonization, diversification and biological succession in response to past climate and environmental changes.

Job description
The job tasks will include:
– Extraction of fossil DNA and the development of DNA libraries for high-throughput sequencing.
– Development of multi-gene molecular phylogenies.
– Bioinformatics and statistical analysis of metagenomic and DNA amplicon datasets.

We offer an intellectually challenging environment, high-quality training to develop hard and soft skills, and opportunities to participate in sampling campaigns to Antarctica and international scientific conferences. The research fellows will be hosted at the three different Belgian partner institutions, but joint PhD degrees are envisaged and several tasks will be done in a close collaboration between the respective research groups.
Please follow the links below for more information on the two individual PhD fellowships:
PhD on the diversity, ecology and evolution of micro-eukaryotes (Ghent University)
PhD on the diversity, ecology and evolution of Cyanobacteria (University of Liège)
Note that the position at the RBINS will be advertised in 2022.

For more information, contact Prof. Elie Verleyen (elie.verleyen@ugent.be).

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