Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL

PostDoc in evolutionary quantitative genetics of forest trees (f/m/d)

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The Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL is part of the ETH Domain. Approximately 600 people work on the sustainable use and protection of the environment and on the handling of natural hazards.

The Research Unit Biodiversity and Conservation Biology investigates the diversity of life in its various forms, from genetic diversity to the diversity of species and ecosystems as well as their interactions. It’s Evolutionary Genetics Group is interested in understanding the roles of demography and natural selection in shaping the life-histories and the genetic composition of forest tree populations across the landscape. The group uses field experiments, statistical models, and individual-based computer simulations to answer fundamental evolutionary questions and to aid adaptive forest management decisions. In the framework of the ERC Consolidator Grant “MyGardenOfTrees”, the Evolutionary Genetics Group offers a 2-year position starting 1 June 2024 or soon after

PostDoc in evolutionary quantitative genetics of forest trees (f/m/d)

How organisms adapt to their environments is the most fundamental question in evolutionary biology and is of utmost importance given current climate change threats. Identifying key traits involved in adaptations and understanding how they interact with each other, and with the environment, is a particularly urgent task for foundation and resource-production species, such as forest trees. Existing experiments, so-called provenance trials, assessing the local suitability of tree species and provenances lack scalability and predictability across the species range, and especially at the species range margins. MyGardenOfTrees proposes a novel participatory science approach. In 2023, an unprecedented "distributed" provenance trial was launched across Europe, where over 300 of voluntary foresters established a small common garden trial (a micro-garden) and evaluate the regeneration and early growth capacity of two forest tree species complexes (Abies spp and Fagus spp). Observations obtained from these trials will be combined with whole genome sequencing data from the seed source mother trees, and using tools borrowed from plant breeding, used to develop a prediction tool for foresters to help them build forests better adapted to climate change. See more information about the participatory aspects of the project at 

This postdoc position will focus on addressing the role of gene-environment interactions in seedling performance using a combination of trait data, genomics, and environmental data. Three trait datasets will be available for analysis: one readily available from the pilot trials, another also available from climate chamber trials, and lastly from the main trials, data from the first growing season by the end of 2023. Genomics data will be available for Fagus by March 2024 and for Abies by the end of 2024. Bioinformatics analysis will be performed in collaboration with two PhD students and with the Genetic Diversity Centre (GDC) of the ETH Zurich. The ultimate goal of the project is to estimate the reaction norms (phenotypic expression) of different populations and lineages across a large range of environments and incorporate this information into a genomic prediction model. The position involves only data analysis and statistical modeling. Some wet lab work is possible, depending on the candidate’s interests.

The ideal candidate holds a PhD degree in quantitative genetics/genomics, plant evolutionary biology, and/or forestry. Solid background (or strong motivation to develop skills) in plant/animal breeding methods (mixed-effects models), bioinformatics, and seedling development/physiology are necessary, as a well as fluency in R/Python. Knowledge of ASReml-R is a plus. Experience in working with forest trees is not essential but is an advantage. We are looking for an enthusiastic and creative thinker who can make the most of this non-conventional and unprecedented trait and genomic data in hand. Capacity to produce scientific publications in top ranking journals is expected. The position will be based at WSL in Birmensdorf, close to Zurich, at the footsteps of the Swiss Alps. Zurich is home to a vibrant scientific community with its numerous universities (UZH, ETH) and research institutes (WSL, Eawag, Empa) and is famous for a high quality of living. 

Applications, including a motivation letter, a summary of past relevant accomplishments, a CV, and the names and contact details of two referees should be sent to Michele Bucher, Human Resources WSL, by uploading the requested documents through the WSL webpage. The position is open until filled. Applications via email will not be considered. Dr Katalin Csilléry (project PI, katalin.csillery(at), Tel. +41 44 739 23 43) will be happy to answer any questions or offer further information. The WSL strives to increase the proportion of women in its employment, which is why qualified women are particularly called upon to apply for this position.

Zürcherstrasse 111, CH-8903 Birmensdorf

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PostDoc in evolutionary quantitative genetics of forest trees (f/m/d)
Zürcherstrasse 111 Birmensdorf, Switzerland
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The Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research is concerned with the use, development and protection of natural and urban spaces.

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