PhD research in Plant Mating System Evolution and Speciation – KU Leuven, Deadline 30 January

(Ref. BAP-2014-532)

Occupation : Full-time
Period : Fixed-term contract extendable
Place : Leuven
Apply no later than : January 30, 2015
For the Ecology, Evolution and Biodiversity section of the Biology Department we are looking for a PhD researcher to do research on the topic of ecological speciation in plants.

PhD research in Plant Mating System Evolution and Speciation

The lab of Plant Population and Conservation Biology aims to understand the dynamics of wild plant populations and their interactions with both mutualists (e.g. pollinating insects, mycorrhizal soil fungi) and the abiotic environment. We also aim to document the diversity of flowering plants, investigate their demographic behavior and population dynamics, and finally study their evolution. The techniques we commonly use include phylogenetics, biogeography, pollination experiments, demographic modeling, neutral genetic markers and recently also genomic approaches.


Adaptive divergence due tohabitat differences is thought to play a major role in formation of newspecies. However the extent to which individual reproductive isolating barriersrelated to habitat differentiation contribute to total isolation is not veryclear. Furthermore, it is often difficult to determine the specificenvironmental variables that drive the evolution of those ecological barriers,and the geographic scale at which habitat-mediated speciation occurs. Here, youwill address these questions through an in-depth analysis of the populationstructure and reproductive isolation between grassland and forest populationsof the distylous Primula veris. Recent research has revealed remarkable differencesin floral morphology (flower size, anther-stigma separation) and other planttraits (leaf size, floral display) between forest and grassland populations.Concomitant to changes in floral morphology forest populations consistentlyflowered one month earlier than grassland populations. Imperfect positioning ofthe sexual organs combined with differences in flowering time can behypothesized to constitute important reproductive barriers that hamper geneflow and lead to reproductive isolation. Moreover, differences in shade anddrought tolerance can be expected to contribute further to reproductiveisolation. To investigate whether specific adaptations to distinct habitats aresufficient to lead to the formation of reproductively isolated species, youwill combine detailed molecular genetic analyses and genomic tools withpollination and translocation experiments.


A relevant master degree (Biology /Bioscience Engineering / Bioinformatics) with excellent grades

English language proficiency

A keen interest in research andthorough data analysis

Highly motivated to perform in-depthanalytical research and write strong scientific articles

Proficient knowledge ofbioinformatics and genetic analyses is a surplus


We offer a 1 year full-time PhDscholarship with possibility to extend to a full 4 year PhD. You will bewelcomed in an international research group of 15 PhD researchers and 11postdoctoral researchers.

Thelab offers a dynamic and intellectually challenging environment, in closecollaboration with experts from a wide variety of domains. For more informationon holiday arrangements, insurance, career development etc, see

TheKU Leuven is one of Europe’s leading research universities, with English as theworking language for research. Leuven lies just east of Brussels, at the heartof Europe. The city is less than two hours travel from Paris, London andAmsterdam.


For more information please contact Prof. dr. Hans Jacquemyn, tel.: +32 16 32 15 30, mail: or Mr. Rein Brys, tel.: +32 16 37 36 60, mail: rein.brys[at]

You can apply for this job no later than January 30, 2015 via the

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