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Sexual Selection and Sexual Conflict in Hermaphrodites

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, February 28, 2020
  • Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About This PhD Project

Project Description

A PhD position, funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), is available in the Schärer Group ( at the Zoological Institute, University of Basel, Switzerland. The ideal start date is 1. April 2020 (with some flexibility).

Research in our group focuses on the evolutionary biology of reproduction in simultaneous hermaphrodites, and uses small and transparent free-living flatworms of the genus Macrostomum as models, permitting the study of many reproductive processes in vivo. We employ diverse approaches, including laboratory experiments, field work, transgenesis, genomics, phylogenomics, and the comparative method. Moreover, one species we study, Macrostomum lignano, is a well-established model whose genome was recently published, and that is used to study stem cell biology, regeneration, ageing, and bioadhesion.

The PhD is part of a larger project aimed at deepening our understanding of two closely related Macrostomum species. One species, Macrostomum cliftonensis, shows the ’reciprocal mating syndrome’, where worms mate and transfer sperm reciprocally into the partner’s female genitalia. This leads to sexual conflicts over the fate of the received ejaculate, and involves an intriguing post-copulatory ’suck’ behaviour aimed at removing received sperm. The other species, Macrostomum hystrix, shows the ’hypodermic mating syndrome’, where sperm is transferred via hypodermic insemination. Here the sperm have to navigate through the partner’s body to the site of fertilisation. A primary aim of the PhD is to study and contrast different processes of post-copulatory sexual selection between the two mating syndromes, by taking advantage of sperm tracking in these transparent worms (as done previously for Macrostomum lignano), using immunocytochemical labelling of sperm and/or the establishment of transgenic worms with GFP-expressing sperm.

The successful PhD candidate will be independent, hard-working, inquisitive, creative, and collaborative. Moreover, he/she should have a keen interest in evolutionary biology and must be willing to learn new techniques and approaches. Documented skills in molecular biology and microinjection are a clear advantage, as is experience with working with small organisms. But the willingness and determination to learn new skills is much more important. A MSc or equivalent education is required for this position.

The Zoological Institute is a stimulating and international research environment with English as the primary language ( The Institute has a strong background in experimental design, statistics, population genetics, quantitative genetics, genomics and molecular biology. It is an ideal place for a PhD in modern evolutionary biology. Basel is the third largest city in Switzerland and attractively situated at the foot of the Jura mountains. It has the beautiful river Rhine, and directly borders Germany and France, thus offering rich culinary, cultural, and outdoor activities.

To apply, please send a letter of motivation, a CV, contact details of 2 referees, and a copy of your MSc thesis (if available) to (electronic applications in a single file preferred). Review of applications starts on February 28, but applications will be considered until the position is filled.

PD Dr. Lukas Scharer
University of Basel
Department of Environmental Sciences
Zoological Institute
Vesalgasse 1
4051 Basel

Tel: ++41 61 207 03 66
Fax: ++41 61 207 03 62
Skype: lukas.scharer

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