PhD position in Integrating environmental DNA (eDNA) and remote sensing to assess fundamental biodiversity and ecosystem processes, Switzerland

Eawag, the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Dübendorf, Switzerland), and University of Zurich (UZH) are internationally recognized institutes that are committed to the ecological, economical and social management of water. They offer excellent laboratory and field facilities for interdisciplinary research, large-scale experimental facilities, and long-term research programs and data sets. These institutions share common goals towards education, research, and technology transfer at the highest international level.

The Department of Aquatic Ecology (Eawag) and Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental studies (UZH) have a vacancy for a

PhD position in Integrating environmental DNA (eDNA) and remote sensing to assess fundamental biodiversity and ecosystem processes

We invite applications for this PhD position (position reference URPP-GCB-FA-17-01) in integrating environmental DNA (eDNA) and remote sensing to assess fundamental biodiversity and ecosystem processes. The position is part of the established interdisciplinary University Research Priority Programme on Global Change and Biodiversity (URPP GCB) at UZH (

Biodiversity is both a response variable affected by global change drivers and a factor modifying ecosystem processes and services that are essential to human well-being. An improved capability to predict the consequences of changes in drivers will aid improved prediction of the state of the environment. The URPP GCB implements innovative avenues in this research domain by using a latitudinal gradient approach based on interactions, feedback and scale, to provide a more reliable and robust knowledge of global change processes.

We are looking for a motivated candidate, capable of integrating two emerging research fields, namely environmental DNA (eDNA)-based diversity assessments using high throughput sequencing (HTS) and remote-sensing based assessments of plant diversity and related carbon stocks and fluxes. We therefore invite applications for a PhD position integrating eDNA and remote sensing research to fundamentally assess biodiversity.

This project builds on recent advances in molecular and remote sensing techniques, creating novel opportunities to assess biodiversity in a unifying and scalable way. Individually, eDNA and remote sensing offer unprecedented temporal and spatial resolutions of biodiversity information. The goal of this PhD project is to develop and test an integration of both approaches in a set of well-defined natural ecosystems, to get unified measures of biodiversity and ecosystem processes. You will assess and link biodiversity and ecosystem processes in a series of well-defined test sites using eDNA and remote sensing with a focus on tree diversity, decomposer diversity, and carbon stocks and fluxes. The ultimate goal is to upscale and predict diversity at the landscape level.

The successful applicant will be based in Zurich and embedded in a supervisory team including Prof. Dr Florian Altermatt (, and Prof. Dr Michael Schaepman ( You will work in the Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental studies and the Department of Geography at UZH, and Eawag in Duebendorf. All of them host several research groups working on a variety of topics assessing the key drivers of global change and biodiversity.

To apply, all applicants must have a completed master’s degree in Ecology, Molecular Ecology, Geosciences or a closely related science field. Applicants must have proven previous laboratory and bioinformatics experience in eDNA or HTS approaches, and ideally should have some knowledge on spatial or remote-sensing based data analysis. Experience in programing and bioinformatics skills is an asset. A high standard of written and spoken English is required. The position can start as soon as a suitable candidate is found. The employment will be trough UZH. We are looking for a highly motivated, enthusiastic and independent person with a passion for science to join our team. We offer outstanding working conditions, a high quality of life in Zurich, and an excellent support environment.

Further Information

Application Deadline : 15 May 2017