PhD student

Vacature | 29 apr. 2021

Organisatie: Naturalis Biodiversity Center
Locatie: Leiden
Omvang: 36 uur per week (vanaf oktober 2021)
Sluitingsdatum: 21 mei 2021

Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden is the Dutch national research institute for biodiversity and systematics. With our collection of 42 million specimens, one of the world's largest natural history collections, and our state-of-the-art research facilities we offer the (inter)national research infrastructure for species, identification and monitoring. We closely collaborate with many Dutch universities, research institutes, industry and government. We host over 120 researchers including 13 academia embedded professors and 40 PhD students. We present the history of our planet, and the diversity of life on Earth, through permanent and temporary museum exhibitions, educational programmes and online presence, with more than 400,000 visitors per year. All in all, a unique combination of science and culture in the Netherlands and elsewhere in the world! Naturalis is looking for a:

               PhD student


Since the work of Darwin, islands have been considered as ideal systems to unravel evolutionary processes that have shaped present-day life, because of their isolation, defined boundaries, and often exceptionally high biodiversity. A large proportion of island species evolved through speciation in-situ and are found nowhere else in the world, but we still do not understand why some island lineages have radiated spectacularly, while others remained species-poor or did not radiate at all. Identifying the drivers that promote diversification is one of the key objectives in biodiversity research.

This research is part of an integrative study including two complementary PhD projects. This vacancy only applies to one PhD project and aims to build self-generated Trees of Life of Canary Island plant lineages (using a next-generation sequencing approach) and compile morphological databases of particular traits hypothesized to potentially drive diversification (transition to woody life form on islands, flower and fruit characters that impact dispersal). The PhD candidate will closely collaborate with another PhD candidate at University of Groningen who will develop a novel model of trait-dependent diversification that is specifically tailored for islands. Two expeditions to the Canary Islands are planned to collect plant species and investigate seed and fruit traits.

This PhD position fits within the work of Dr. Lens and Dr. Valente who will act as daily supervisors. Dr. Lens investigates the impact of woodiness evolution on islands (for more information:, and Dr. Valente’s research is focusing on diversification on islands ( The PhD candidate will be housed in Naturalis (Leiden, The Netherlands) where the facilities for next-generation sequencing are present. Promotor will be Prof. Rampal Etienne (University of Groningen, The Netherlands;, to which regular short-term visits are required. At Naturalis, the PhD student will be assigned to the ‘Functional Traits’ research group led by Dr. Frederic Lens. A PhD training program is part of the agreement and you will be enrolled in the Graduate School of the Faculty of the University of Groningen.

Find out more about Naturalis’ research, labs and collection. More information about the PhD vacancy at University of Groningen can be found here.

General requirements and skills

Preferably the candidate has the following skill set:

●      background in molecular phylogenetics, preferably some expertise in next-generation sequencing methods such as Hybridisation Sequencing;

●      experience with phylogenetic methods;

●      eager to do molecular lab work as well as field excursions;

●      interest in unravelling speciation and extinction of iconic island lineages;

●      excellent knowledge of the English language (written and verbal);

●      scientific and critical attitude, excellent time management and organizational skills;

●      ability to work independently as well as collaboratively within the team;

●      good communication skills;

●      willingness to supervise MSc students.

It is expected that the successful candidate will spend time during several short research visits to Groningen, which is about 200km from Leiden (The Netherlands). A close collaboration with the other PhD candidate is mandatory, although the Naturalis PhD project stands on its own.

We offer

A contract (36 hours per week) for a period of one year, to be extended with three more years after a successful first year evaluation (4y in total), and a monthly starting salary of € 2,840.- (circa € 37,500.- gross per year). The successful candidate will be employed by Naturalis in Leiden. Naturalis Biodiversity Center offers an inspiring working atmosphere with effective and efficient supervision of our PhD candidates. Our Research Coordination Office also provides ample support to our scientific staff. Our institute promotes gender equality and wants to enhance the diversity of staff members. Feel free to contact Dr. Frederic Lens with questions about the position:


Applicants are invited to submit their application in one pdf, including a cover/motivation letter and CV. Two letters of recommendation should be uploaded in one pdf as well. Please use this form for your application not later than May 21, 2021, 17.00h CET. Interviews are foreseen to take place before the summer break. The PhD position is expected to start October 1st 2021 at the earliest.

Naturalis endorses the Cultural Diversity Code. In the case of equal suitability, preference is given to the candidate who reinforces diversity within the team.

Acquisition is not appreciated.