Coventry University Featured PhD Programmes
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Coventry University Featured PhD Programmes

The ecology and evolution of color in ants

Department of Ecology and Evolution

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Dr Cleo Bertelsmeier , Dr Sébastien Ollier No more applications being accepted Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
Lausanne Switzerland Bioinformatics Data Analysis Ecology Environmental Biology Evolution Neuroscience Geography Zoology

About the Project


Coloration mediates the relationship between an organism and its environment in important ways, including social signaling, antipredator defenses, parasitic exploitation, thermoregulation, and protection from ultraviolet light, microbes, and abrasion. However, it remains largely unknown to what extent coloration interacts with ecophysiology and behavior in determining species distributions. Until recently, most comparative analyses of coloration were small-scale, largely because of restricted data sets or computational power limitations. Only now, large-scale and global databases with images of many organisms have become available. These images provide a novel opportunity to study evolutionary dynamics of patterns of color across many different species worldwide. So far, such a global-scale study in an entire taxonomic group distributed worldwide has been lacking. 

The aim of this multidisciplinary project is to get a better understanding of color variations in ants at different spatial scales. Ants are a good model system because large-scale database are easily available to retrieve color characteristics for a high number of species. Moreover, the ways how color changes survival and reproductive success of ants should be simpler and much more linked to environmental drivers than biotic ones like sexual selection, which is important in birds.

First, the successful candidate will investigate the diversification of color patterns of ants using color information combined with knowledge of species’ spatial distributions and phylogenetic relationships. Then, the student will device a series of experiments combined with field studies to investigate at a more local scale the color variation in ants and its fitness benefits, for example in terms of resistance to high temperatures, UV, drought and parasites. This will help elucidating the mechanisms of color evolution and potential consequences for species responses to anthropogenic climate change. 

Your profile

We are looking for a creative and passionate student who is a good team player with excellent communication skills and likes to discuss and exchange ideas. You should have a master degree in ecology, evolution or a related field, knowledge of statistics and R (experience in comparative analysis, GIS, and spatial statistics would be an asset), the ability to design and carry out field and lab-based experiments. Previous experience with social insects is an advantage. 

What the position offers you

We offer a nice working place in a multicultural, diversified and dynamic academic environment, collaboration with a young and dynamic scientific team, opportunities for professional training, a lot of activities and other benefits to discover.


Cleo Bertelsmeier

[Email Address Removed]


Sébastien Ollier

[Email Address Removed]


Department of Ecology and Evolution (DEE), University of Lausanne, Switzerland.

Our department has a long track record of excellence in research. It comprises 15 professors and 4 young independent group leaders. The DEE hosts an average of 40 postdocs and 50 PhD students. Members of the department regularly publish in top ranking journals. Interaction among the different research groups is a priority, with two weekly seminars and many weekly journal clubs. The DEE expertise is well recognized and this has led previous students, PhD students or postdocs of the DEE to be employed in academic or non-academic positions within Switzerland and outside Switzerland. 

Expected starting date

1 September 2021

How to apply

Applications and queries should be submitted on our institutional website: The application should contain a letter of motivation with a statement of your research interests and qualifications for the position, your CV, grades and recommendation letters and contact details of at least two referees. The evaluation of applications will start on May 5 and continue until a suitable candidate has been found.

Funding Notes

the project is fully funded


Cuthill, I. C. et al. The biology of color. Science. 357, eaan0221 (2017).
O. Badejo, O. Skaldina, A. Gilev, J. Sorvari, Benefits of insect colours: a review from social insect studies. Oecologia 194, 27–40 (2020).
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