PhD Student: Department of Biology

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Job description

The Department Biology of Ghent University is offering a PhD scholarship (R1-level) in 2021 commencing latest on July1st.

The PhD student will be hosted at both the EON (Research group Evolution and Optics of Nanostructures) and TEREC (Terrestrial Ecology) research group. Supervision by prof. Dries Bonte ( and dr. Bram Vanthournout ( Urbanisation leads to a strong homogenisation of biodiversity, as many species go extinct while few species are able to persist in cities across the world. This persistence is caused by tolerance or adaptations towards stressors like urban heating and altered resources. Orb web spiders are predators that experience strong changes in prey composition but also a performance reduction due to thermal stress. Changes in body colouration are an important adaptation to thermal conditions, but they are constrained by nutritional conditions.

As city life would select for paler colouration, reduced costs of producing pigments may provide an explanation for rescue under poor nutritional conditions in urban environments.

The student will participate in a research project funded by the Research Foundation – Flanders (FWO) and study the interplay between thermal and nutritional urban selection pressures in the garden spider. This will be achieved by a further development of an ongoing citizen-science project (, combined with an extended survey of prey availability and nutritional quality in a research platform in Flanders and the quantification of body colouration across urban gradients in Europe. Targeted translocation experiments will subsequently allow understanding of the adaptive value of these phenotypic changes, as well as the potential for genetic evolution.

Job profile

  • Candidates should have a strong background in relevant subjects such as thermal, food web or urban ecology and evolution.
  • Experience in conducting biological experiments or molecular analyses using arthropods (spiders) as a model is seen as an advantage.
  • Applicants should have a keen interest/prior experience in citizen science and science communication in general.
  • The position is available for a 4-years period, pending a positive intermediate evaluation.
  • Applicants demonstrate excellent study results and good English skills.
  • As criteria for the assessment of your qualification, emphasis will also be laid on previous publications (if any) and relevant experience.
  • We aim to hire students that reflect the diversity of society and thus welcome applications from all qualified candidates regardless of personal background.
  • We equally welcome applications from students graduating before July 2021.

How to apply

Send your application letter, CV, overview of study results and full details of 3 references, in English, to the two supervisors of the project. (prof. Dries Bonte and dr. Bram Vanthournout (

Last application date: Mar 15, 2021 00:00


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