PhD position in Eco-Evo eDNA

PhD position in Eco-Evo eDNA

Published Deadline Location
19 Sep 19 Oct Leiden

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The Faculty of Science and Institute of Environmental Sciences are looking for:

1 PhD candidate related to applying environmental DNA to the evolutionary ecology of amphibians

Vacancy number: 14085

Job description

Key responsibilities
Are you a curious scientist, wanting to bridge evolutionary ecology questions to environmental science applications? Does combining field and lab work, and interfacing with policy decision-makers pique your interest? Do you have experience with using environmental DNA (eDNA) or have a desire to learn and apply this approach in aquatic systems to help stem biodiversity loss? If so, the Institute of Environmental Sciences (CML) at Leiden University is looking for a PhD candidate who has experience, and ideally is skilled in, genetic-based laboratory and sampling techniques, but also someone who has an affinity with applying these techniques to study questions relating to invasive species, conservation, and evolutionary dynamics. We are particularly interested in candidates familiar with environmental DNA (or eDNA) and/or evolutionary ecology theory (e.g., speciation, hybridization).

Specifically, the PhD will look at applying a new frontier for eDNA research: denoting hybrid zones using non-invasive methods. The PhD candidate will focus primarily on native-invasive interactions among amphibians. As such, the candidate will work alongside a large group of eDNA specialists and evolutionary ecologists at Leiden University, as well as partnering with other universities (e.g., University of Amsterdam), NGO’s (RAVON) and governmental organizations (e.g., USDA), offering a unique, large, and dynamic research network across multiple countries (and continents). Within the network, the candidate will be expected to liaise with others and travel to various countries across Europe and North America for field sampling.

The PhD candidate will become a member in the laboratory of Dr. Stewart, accompanied by multiple MSc, PhD and postdoctoral researchers. This project has been fully funded through the Dutch VIDI program, and as such you will work closely alongside a similarly funded postdoc. Dr. Stewart is dedicated to an inclusive and open research environment to promote passion, independence, and transferable skills for whatever future career goals the candidate may have. In our research group, we strongly value a collaborative approach. Students will enter an environment of weekly informal meetings to promote progress and cohesion within the larger research group, while also engaging with the larger e3DNA working group (the Dutch eDNA research hub hosted by Dr. Stewart and Dr. Trimbos at Leiden University) that meets twice a month.

If you are an interdisciplinary thinker with a MSc degree in Evolutionary or Molecular Ecology, Biology, Sustainability, Environmental Science (or a related field), this PhD position might be a great fit for you.

You are expected to:
  • Be a collegial person but have a proactive attitude towards balancing your research endeavors, particularly field and lab work
  • Contribute to a dynamic research group involved in eDNA sampling and analysis both within our institute but also with project collaborators in other countries
  • Be comfortable and confident working independently when required (e.g., field work)
  • Supervise BSc or MSc students for thesis projects and field sampling
  • Attend national and international conferences
  • Work with supervisors outlining research methodologies and proposals
  • Stimulate students’ collaborative and pro-active attitudes


Leiden University


Selection criteria:
The preferred candidate
  • Has at least a MSc degree, ideally in Evolutionary or Molecular Ecology, Biology, Sustainability, Environmental Science or a related discipline
  • Proven ability to motivate and/or encourage students and to coach them through group work
  • Has excellent organization and communication skills (e.g., as evidenced through publications and presentations at conferences)
  • Demonstrable proactive and flexible attitude
  • Has experience with environmental DNA research or regular DNA-related lab analysis (such as DNA extractions, PCR and preferably also metabarcoding analysis including bioinformatics) and is keen on applying these within an Environmental Science related framework
  • Strong data management, visualization, scripting and bioinformatic skills (e.g. in R, Python, Galaxy) are an advantage but not a prerequisite. Your BSc or MSc thesis ideally involves all the environmental DNA related steps (sampling, DNA extractions, and subsequent quantitative or qualitative DNA analysis), data analysis through R and reporting about the outcomes of your research
  • You are a team player, and can communicate your work to other researchers of various disciplines within and outside of the CML
  • Fluent in English, verbally and in writing

Conditions of employment

Terms and conditions
At Leiden University, a PhD candidate is seen as an employee rather than a student. As such, we offer a 1-year position with the possibility of extension to 4 years based on performance and following the pay scale P in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities. Salary ranges from € 2.770.- gross per month in the first year to € 3.539 gross per month in the fourth year based on a full-time position. Leiden University offers an attractive benefits package with additional holiday (8%) and end-of-year bonuses (8.3 %), training and career development. Our individual choices model gives you some freedom to assemble your own set of terms and conditions. For international spouses, we have set up a dual career programme. Candidates from outside the Netherlands may be eligible for a substantial tax break (“30% rule”).

At the Faculty of Science we value inclusiveness and strive for a diverse community with equal opportunities for all. We give full support to our staff in achieving their potential to become independent academic researchers and teachers. For more information about our policy on diversity and equality please go to the diversity page on our website. Female researchers are also welcomed to join the Researchers In Science for Equality network of the Faculty if Science (


Universiteit Leiden

Research at our Institute/Faculty
Leiden University is situated between Amsterdam (36km) and Den Haag (15 km) and was founded in 1575, making it the oldest university in the Netherlands. It houses around 35,000 students originating from 112 nationalities, facilitated by approximately 8,000 staff. The Faculty of Science is a world-class faculty where staff and students work together in a dynamic international environment. It is a faculty where personal and academic development are top priorities. Our people are driven by curiosity to expand fundamental knowledge and to look beyond the borders of their own discipline; their aim is to benefit science, and to make a contribution to addressing the major societal challenges of the future.

The research carried out at the Faculty is very diverse, ranging from mathematics, information science, astronomy, physics, chemistry and bio-pharmaceutical sciences to biology and environmental sciences. The research activities are organised in eight institutes. These institutes offer eight bachelor's and twelve master's programmes. The faculty has grown strongly in recent years and now has more than 2,300 staff and almost 5,000 students. We are located at the heart of Leiden's Bio Science Park, one of Europe's biggest science parks, where university and business life come together.

The environmental science research in CML is organized around two major research areas: 'Industrial Ecology' and 'Environmental Biology'. This makes CML one of the few institutes covering both the circular, sustainable economic use of natural resources and natural capital, as well as assessing the environmental impacts of economic activities on natural resources, biodiversity and natural capital. Presently, over 140 FTE (including postdocs and PhDs) are employed at CML. CML collaborates with the TU Delft and Erasmus University (Rotterdam) in the Leiden-Delft-Erasmus Centre for Sustainability (LDE-CfS).


  • PhD
  • Natural sciences
  • max. 38 hours per week
  • €2770—€3539 per month
  • University graduate
  • 14085



Rapenburg 70, 2311EZ, Leiden

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