PhD position in evolutionary ecology: life history consequences of telomere variation

A PhD position is available at the Centre for Biodiversity Dynamics (CBD), Department of biology, NTNU. The appointment is for 3 years with the possibility of up to a 1-year extension if the candidate accepts teaching duties in agreement with the Department and the supervisor.

The scientific goal of the project is to acquire new knowledge about life history strategies specifically related to recent developments in pace-of-life theory, and this will involve inter-disciplinary research exploring functional physiology (telomere dynamics) as a mediator of adaptive trade-offs between life history traits in house sparrows.

Information about the department

The strategy of the Department of Biology is to understand biological processes of life to secure sustainable use of and conservation of the environment. The Department has academic and research activities in the following disciplines: cell- and molecular biology, systems biology, physiology, ethology, ecology, evolution, population genetics, marine biology, aquaculture, biodiversity and environmental toxicology. Further information is available at:

This position will be hosted by the Centre for Biodiversity Dynamics, a Centre of Excellence in Science, more information about the Centre can be found at:

Job description

The aim of the research in the announced PhD position will be to increase our understanding of the drivers of selective trade-offs between life history traits, which is itself a fundamental goal within evolutionary biology. The underlying principle is that since resources are limited then individuals have to optimally allocate any investment in growth versus survival versus reproduction. One trait that has been demonstrated to play a central role in mediating the trade-off between body size and lifespan in animals is the length of the chromosomal ends called telomeres. It has been established that telomere length at an early age is predictive of lifespan and that the length of the telomeres is reduced during the lifetime. Important sources of telomere loss are due to somatic cellular division and factors that increase the level of oxidative damage.

This project will focus on factors that influence variation in telomere length (such as heritability, and early growth rate) as well as how telomere dynamics relates to individual variation in fitness. The project will be based on empirical data from a study system of house sparrow populations in northern Norway. This include (1) an artificial selection experiment on body size, (2) long-term time series of variation in reproductive success and survival, and (3) a field study on the associations between early growth rate, oxidative damage, stress hormone and telomere lengths and how these influence future fitness.

This project will enable the candidate to investigate central questions related to the functional associations between telomere dynamics and physiological parameters and individual behaviour (“personality”), and how these are associated with trade-offs between life history traits such as growth rate, body size, reproduction and lifespan.
The successful candidate will be expected to have a longer visit (for instance 3 to 5 months) at our collaborating partner Professor Pat Monaghan’s lab at the University of Glasgow during the PhD period.


The applicant must have an MSc (or equivalent) within the discipline(s) ecology, evolution or eco-physiology.
It is an advantage if the candidate has experience in molecular genetic analyses.
The applicant must also have substantial skills in applied statistics, including programming in R or similar languages.
Candidates should have strong organizational, written and oral communication skills, be creative, and be able to work both independently and as part of a collaborative team.

The regulations for PhD programs at NTNU state that a Master degree or equivalent with at least 5 years of studies and an average grade of A or B within a scale of A-E for passing grades (A best) for the two last years of the MSc is required and C or higher of the BSc.

Candidates from universities outside Norway are kindly requested to send a Diploma Supplement or a similar document, which describes in detail the study and grade system and the rights for further studies associated with the obtained degree:

The position requires spoken and written fluency in the English language.

Terms of employment

The appointment of the PhD fellows will be made according to Norwegian guidelines for universities and university colleges and to the general regulations regarding university employees. Applicants must agree to participate in organized doctoral study programs within the period of the appointment and have to be qualified for the PhD-study.
NTNU’s personnel policy objective is that the staff must reflect the composition of the population to the greatest possible extent.

The position as PhD is remunerated according to the Norwegian State salary scale. There is a 2% deduction for superannuation contribution.

Further information can be obtained from associate professor Thor Harald Ringsby, Centre for Biodiversity Dynamics (CBD), Department of Biology, NTNU, Tel. +47 735 96277 or +47 91897032, E-mail: [email protected]

The application

Applications with CV, certificates from both Bachelor and Master, any publications and other scientific works, copies of transcripts, (copies of documentation on English language proficiency test), contact information for references, and at least two letters of recommendation should be submitted. The applicant’s motivation, skills and personal qualifications for the position should be described in the application letter.

Applications must be submitted electronically through this page. Applications submitted elsewhere will not be considered.

The reference number of the position is: NT-66/16

Application deadline: 15 August 2016

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