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  3. PhD Candidate: Epigenetic contribution to phenotypic plasticity in Poplar

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PhD Candidate: Epigenetic contribution to phenotypic plasticity in Poplar

In this project we will experimentally evaluate effects of stress exposure on DNA methylation, transposable element activity and gene expression in black poplar (Populus nigra).

12 maanden geleden


Droevendaalsesteeg, Wageningen, Gelderland
Tijdelijk contract / Tijdelijke opdracht
Uren per week:
38 uur


In long-lived sessile organisms such as trees, phenotypic plasticity is an important requirement for successful persistence in changing or variable environments. Epigenetic mechanisms have the potential to mediate long-term plastic responses to environmental change. However, the importance of epigenetic mechanisms such as DNA methylation as regulators of adaptive plasticity is not well known. In this project we will experimentally evaluate effects of stress exposure on DNA methylation, transposable element activity and gene expression in black poplar (Populus nigra), with the aim to (1) identify genomic loci that show stress-induced epigenetic modification with functional consequences, and (2) evaluate the temporal stability of such loci, for example across growing seasons. Making use of clonally propagated trees that have grown in contrasting environments, we will also investigate to what extent environment-induced epigenetic differences are transmitted to offspring via clonal propagation (cuttings) versus via sexual reproduction through seeds, using allele-specific DNA methylation analysis. Experiments will be carried out in close interaction with other Populus nigra projects within the EpiDiverse consortium (at Marburg University, Germany and at the Institute of Applied Genomics, Udine).

The project is part of the EU-funded Marie Sklodowska Curie European Training Network EpiDiverse (www.epidiverse.eu). This training network is currently advertising for 15 PhD students distributed over 12 European universities and research institutes. The EpiDiverse network - Epigenetic Diversity in Ecology - joins research groups from ecology, molecular (epi)genetics and bioinformatics to study epigenetic mechanisms and their adaptive relevance in natural plant populations. The network facilitates close collaborations between individual research projects and will provide comprehensive training in molecular, genomic, computational and ecological/evolutionary aspects of studying natural epigenetic variation.


We seek a bright, highly motivated and enthusiastic plant biologist with a background in either molecular biology or (epi)genomics and with a keen interest in ecology and evolution. The candidate should have a general interest in learning computational approaches, and experience with NGS technologies and/or bioinformatics are a plus. A high standard of spoken and written English is required, as are good quantitative and analytical capabilities, excellent interpersonal and communication skills, and the ability to work independently, as well as part of a team.

A university degree in a relevant field is required. Eligibility criteria of EU H2020 ITN programmes apply: candidates must be, at the time of recruitment by the host organisation, in the first four years (full-time equivalent) of their research careers and have not yet been awarded a doctoral degree. This is measured from the date when they obtained the degree which would formally entitle them to embark on a doctorate. Eligible candidates may be of any nationality but must not, at the time of recruitment, have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc) in the Netherlands for more than 12 months in the 3 last years immediately prior to the reference date.

Ideal candidates…

  • Have a keen interest in exploring the causes and consequences of epigenetic variation in natural systems;
  • Are enthusiastic about cooperation in a multidisciplinary team;
  • Should embrace intra-European mobility;
  • Have good communication skills;
  • Are fluent in English.


The position is a temporary appointment, initially for 1 year and upon satisfactory performance to be prolonged for a maximum of 4 years total. The appointment includes an extensive package of fringe benefits. The PhD student will be hired on a full time equivalent regular working contract and the salary will include a mobility allowance.

Additional information

For more information see https://nioo.knaw.nl/en/vacancies-epidiverse or contact Koen Verhoeven k.verhoeven@nioo.knaw.nl of +31 (0)317 473624.


The Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW) is a top research institute of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW). It is located in Wageningen and focuses on fundamental and strategic research on individual organisms, populations, communities, and ecosystems. The PhD student position will be hosted at NIOO-KNAW’s Department of Terrestrial Ecology.