Plant-herbivore interactions and the evolution of the tropical rain forest plant family Annonaceae
Interacciones planta-herbívoro y la evolución de la familia tropical Annonaceae
A major evolutionary driver of tropical rain forest biodiversity resides in interactions between plants and herbivores. This interaction can lead to an arms race between insects and host plant species. Annonaceae is a divers clade of tropical plants (2500 species). The family is well known for their traditional medicinal properties and have a broad array of secondary chemical compounds (in particular alkaloids) that act as important defense mechanisms against herbivores. This PhD will unravel the intricate link between herbivore pressure and Annonaceae evolution.
This PhD is part of the ERC GLOBAL (see above) project and within the LMI BIO-INCA international platform between Ecuador, Colombia and France.
Institutes and researchers involved:
- Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Ecuador (PUCE): Dr. R Montufar, Dr. Rafaël Cardenas, Dr. TLP Couvreur
- Universidad IndoAmerica: Dr. MJ Endara
- Université de Montpellier & Instituto Francés de investigación para el desarrollo (IRD): Dr. TLP Couvreur
- CIRAD (France): Dr. Denis Bastianelli
We are looking for a highly motivated Ecuadorian national to undertake a PhD (3 years) on the evolution of plant-herbivores within the major plant family Annonaceae. All applicants must have a recognized Master (Masterado) diploma (or confirm they will have a Master before the start of the PhD).
The project will investigate the biological interactions between a range of selected Annonaceae species and plant herbivores within tropical rain forests. First, the successful candidate will explore defense mechanisms of Annonaceae species against herbivores. This will involve in-field observations and analyses of secondary metabolites. Then the candidate shall investigate the use of Near Infra Red scanning (NIRs) to infer secondary chemical compounds from fresh and herbarium material. Finally, the candidate will use these data within a phylogenetic framework to test hypotheses of plant herbivore interaction evolution. Most field work will be undertaken in the Yasuni National Park (PUCE research station). A possible trip to Singapore Botanical Garden is also planned to sample South East Asian species.
The successful PhD candidate must have a proven interest on the evolution and/or ecology and botany of tropical biodiversity especially tropical rain forests; be independent in her or his scientific thinking and experimental design (field work, trips to France); have an interest in chemical composition of plants and/or plant-animal interactions; He/she will have an experience (or be willing to do) in field fieldwork in the hard environments (rain forests). In addition, the candidate must have a good level in biostatistics in general and be able to use or willing to learn R. Having some phylogenetic analyses knowledge will be a plus. Finally, the student will have a good level of spoken and written English. Knowledge of French is a plus, but not mandatory.
The grant will start between 1 November and 1 December 2020 for three years. The successful candidate will be inscribed at the Université de Montpellier (France) and will alternate between France (2-6 months per year) and Ecuador over the course of three years. In Ecuador the student will be based within the PUCE and collaborate tightly with the Universidad IndoAmerica, both located in Quito. In Montpellier, the student will be based at the IRD and collaborate with the CIRAD (NIRs scanning).
Application deadline: 15th September.
Interviews beginning October (mainly via zoom, if not present in Quito / or COVID situation still critical).
For enquiries or questions: Thomas.firstname.lastname@example.org
For applications please send the below files (PDF format) to the following emails: email@example.com and Thomas.firstname.lastname@example.org
- Updated CV
- Motivation letter, underlining past experience and why you want to undertake a PhD.
- Name and email of two references (past supervisors for example)
- Copy of the Master diploma (jpeg or pdf format) or statement on when you expect to have your master degree.
Thomas Couvreur, researcher in tropical biodiversity evolution