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Two 3-year postdoc positions in museum genomics and environmental DNA for studying insect genetic diversity in time and space

The Department of Biology, Aarhus University, Denmark, invites applications for two postdoc positions.

Research area and project description
We are currently witnessing a decline in species richness and abundance for certain insect groups, although the magnitude of abundance decline and particularly the drivers are still debated.
Despite many studies documenting worldwide declines in insects, there is virtually no data on the consequences for genetic diversity. This presents a significant scientific knowledge gap, and poses a potential risk of underestimating the consequences and causes of population declines and extinctions. New molecular methods will help to address these issues. As part of a newly established Centre for Ecological Genetics (EcoGenetics) (, we are seeking two highly-motivated postdocs to investigate patterns of genetic diversity of insect populations in time and space.

The centre for EcoGenetics is an international collaboration between PIs from universities in Aarhus (DK), Helsinki (FI) and Aberdeen (UK). The centre’s research spans several topics in ecological and evolutionary research using molecular methods and statistical and processbased modelling. The overall project aim is to understand the effect of insect decline on genetic diversity. The project involves extensive specimen and environmental DNA sampling across environmental variables, land-use intensity and landscape heterogeneity (spatial) as well as from museum specimens (temporal) for population genomic analyses of insects. With this data, the project will investigate i) how interactions between abundance, species-specific traits and land-use/landscape parameters can influence population genetic diversity in current insect populations, and ii) study the historical patterns of genetic diversity in declining species. The centre will further establish relationships between genetic diversity and organismal performance, and develop a predictive modelling framework integrating genetic, ecological and environmental effects on insect population genetics.

Postdoc 1: Museum genomics
The position is available from 1st of June 2021, but the start date is flexible.
The candidate will work with genome sequencing of current and historical museum insect specimens as population time series. Species will span taxonomic and functional groups but butterflies will be a main focus group due to the abundance of museum material as well as several examples of key indicator species declining or going extinct due to disappearance or change in their natural habitats.
With this data, we will investigate e.g. how genetic diversity change in insect populations undergoing decline/extinction compared to populations that have remained stable, whether declining insect populations already have reduced genetic diversity, and how patterns of genetic diversity are associated with ecological specialization and landscape change.

Postdoc 2: Environmental DNA
The position is available from 1st of September 2021, but the start date is flexible.

The candidate will work with DNA metabarcoding of bulk insect samples and environmental DNA samples (flowers) collected from natural and cultivated sites in a large stratified sampling design across key environmental and landscape variables in Denmark. With this data, we will investigate e.g. which parameters (e.g. habitat type, temporal continuity, mutual distance, cultivation intensity) are important for explaining patterns of genetic diversity in insects and how these patterns are associated with population decline and landscape change.

For both positions, there will also be opportunities for developing own research ideas related to molecular ecology in collaboration with the group.

As the required competences are similar for both positions, applicants are strongly encouraged to make a single application for both positions but specify which one is of primary interests.

Qualifications and Competences
Applicants must have a PhD degree or equivalent, or have submitted their PhD thesis for assessment before the application deadline. We seek a candidate with strong expertise in:

  • Analyses of population genetic data
    Particularly software tools such as: Burrows-Wheeler Aligner (BWA), vcf tools, dadi, Structure, R packages such as hierfstat, ape etc.
  • Bioinformatics and statistical analyses of next-generation sequencing data.
    Particularly: Programming languages, especially R, bash and Python; pipelines for next-generation sequencing data analyses such as DADA2, Mothur and SAMtools and experience with running (many parallel) jobs on computer clusters
  • Ecological data analyses, hereunder experience with R
    Particularly: R packages such as vegan, BiodiversityR and ade4 for e.g. clustering, ordination, accumulation and rarefaction analyses of read data
  • DNA laboratory work (preferably eDNA, historical samples and/or ancient DNA)
    Particularly: eDNA extraction, DNA metabarcoding, qPCR, Illumina library building and sequencing
  • Field work
    Particularly: Collection of eDNA samples and environmental variables, and traditional biodiversity surveys especially for terrestrial arthropods

The candidate is expected to have good collaborative skills and proven abilities to publish at a high international level as well as experience in project management. The successful candidate will also be responsible for the daily management of his/her research project in coordination with other members of the group, and will be actively involved in the training and co-supervision of other staff members and students.

Place of Employment and Work
The postdocs will become integrated part of the Centre for EcoGenetics, with the daily work mainly coordinated as part of the environmental DNA group led by Associate Professor Philip Francis Thomsen. There will also be good opportunities for international research visits to other universities.

The place of employment and work is Section for Genetics, Ecology and Evolution, Department of Biology, Aarhus University, Ny Munkegade 116, DK-8000 Aarhus C, Denmark. More information about the people and research activities of the section can be found at:

Contact information
Applicants seeking further information are invited to contact: Philip Francis Thomsen (

Application procedure
Shortlisting is used. This means that after the deadline for applications – and with the assistance from the assessment committee chairman, and the appointment committee if necessary, – the head of department selects the candidates to be evaluated. All applicants will be notified whether or not their applications have been sent to an expert assessment committee for evaluation. The selected applicants will be informed about the composition of the committee, and each applicant is given the opportunity to comment on the part of the assessment that concerns him/her self. Once the recruitment process is completed a final letter of rejection is sent to the deselected applicants.

Letter of reference
If you want a referee to upload a letter of reference on your behalf, please state the referee’s contact information when you submit your application. We strongly recommend that you make an agreement with the person in question before you enter the referee’s contact information, and that you ensure that the referee has enough time to write the letter of reference before the application deadline. Unfortunately, it is not possible to ensure that letters of reference received after the application deadline will be taken into consideration.

Formalities and salary range
Natural Sciences refers to the Ministerial Order on the Appointment of Academic Staff at Danish Universities under the Danish Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation.

The application must be in English and include a curriculum vitae, degree certificate, a complete list of publications, a statement of future research plans and information about research activities, teaching portfolio and verified information on previous teaching experience (if any). Guidelines for applicants can be found here.

Appointment shall be in accordance with the collective labour agreement between the Danish Ministry of Finance and the Danish Confederation of Professional Associations. Further information on qualification requirements and job content may be found in the Memorandum on Job Structure for Academic Staff at Danish Universities.

Salary depends on seniority as agreed between the Danish Ministry of Finance and the Confederation of Professional Associations.

All interested candidates are encouraged to apply, regardless of their personal background. Research activities will be evaluated in relation to actual research time. Thus, we encourage applicants to specify periods of leave without research activities, in order to be able to subtract these periods from the span of the scientific career during the evaluation of scientific productivity.

Aarhus University offers a broad variety of services for international researchers and accompanying families, including relocation service and career counselling to expat partners. Read more here. Please find more information about entering and working in Denmark here.

Aarhus University also offers a Junior Researcher Development Programme targeted at career development for postdocs at AU. You can read more about it here.

The application must be submitted via Aarhus University’s recruitment system, which can be accessed under the job advertisement on Aarhus University's website.

Aarhus University
Aarhus University is an academically diverse and research-intensive university with a strong commitment to high-quality research and education and the development of society nationally and globally. The university offers an inspiring research and teaching environment to its 38,000 students (FTEs) and 8,000 employees, and has an annual revenues of EUR 885 million. Learn more at

Deadline: 15 April 2021



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