Deadline: 05 May 2024

Published: 17 Apr 2024

Contact: Florian Altermatt

The Altermatt lab at the Department of Evolutionary Biology & Environmental Studies of University of Zurich and the Department of Aquatic Ecology of Eawag has a vacancy for a PhD position “Uncovering fundamental biodiversity in riverine systems using environmental DNA” (4 years position).

Rivers are among the most biodiverse ecosystems worldwide, with invaluable significance for mankind. Recent advances in molecular methods, particularly environmental DNA (eDNA) metabarcoding, has revolutionised how biodiversity is assessed in freshwater ecosystems across all taxonomic groups, including bacteria, invertebrates and fish. Yet, for a congruent understanding of riverine biodiversity and associated ecosystem functions, a better understanding of trophic relationships and food web interactions is needed. This includes disentangling the terrestrial-aquatic linkage and attributing biodiversity state and change at a high spatio-temporal resolution. In this PhD project you will apply eDNA metabarcoding to assess and uncover the biodiversity fingerprint of a river basin at a high spatial and temporal coverage.

The position is to be filled with a motivated candidate, capable of taking a leading role in the research field of eDNA metabarcoding, specifically focusing on diversity assessments in riverine ecosystems using high throughput sequencing (HTS) and contextualizing it in a modern aquatic ecology perspective.

The Project

This project builds on existing long-term field sites in Switzerland (Thur catchment) and links to national biomonitoring programs. The goal of this PhD project is to advance eDNA-based metabarcoding in natural ecosystems, to get a coherent understanding of biodiversity and ecosystem function. You will conduct your own field and laboratory work to assess food webs and ecosystem state in riverine networks across the blue-green interface. The eDNA studies can be complemented with other technologies (e.g., remote sensing and modelling) and fits into the wider research interest of the Altermatt lab research areas. The PhD project allows a high level of innovation, independence and co-creation, and therefore there is also room for your own ideas in the context of aquatic biodiversity and eDNA metabarcoding.


To apply, you must have a Master’s degree in Molecular Ecology, Ecology, Microbiology or a closely related science field. Applicants ideally have previous laboratory and bioinformatics experience in eDNA or HTS approaches, and knowledge on analysing biodiversity data. Experience in programming is an asset. A strong conceptual background in community and molecular ecology and a good understanding of ecological theory, data analysis and writing skills are expected. The working language in the group and the institutes is English. Fluency in speaking and writing is required.

How to Apply

Applications must be submitted by 05 May 2024. Your application should include a letter describing your interests and their relevance to this position, a complete CV, university diplomas, and the names and contact information for three references (all in one pdf file).