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Two PhD candidates in automated detection and genetics of social behaviours in pigs and laying hens

Do you have a strong background in genetics, statistical genetics, biology or another quantitative field? Are you fascinated by animal science and technology? …

4 maanden geleden


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


Do you have a strong background in genetics, statistical genetics, biology or another quantitative field? Are you fascinated by animal science and technology? And did you graduate outside the domain of animal sciences? Then read on; we have an interesting PhD position for you!

We are looking for two enthusiastic PhD students who will study the automated detection and quantitative genetics of social behavioural interactions in groups of pigs and laying hens. In this research you help to develop new tools for automated phenotyping of individual animals in group housing with computer vision, sensors and AI, and to develop methodology to use these phenotypes in animal breeding. In this way, your research will contribute to the improvement of the health and welfare of farm animals.
The role of the PhD student is:
  • to contribute to the development of methods and tools for the automated detection of animal behaviour, using computer vision, sensors and artificial intelligence,
  • to develop and validate statistical models for the analysis of large scale longitudinal data on social behaviour of farm animals,
  • to develop models for the emerge and spread of social behaviours and for the study of social networks (in collaboration with the PhD students on animal behaviour at WUR and UU), and
  • to develop breeding strategies for improvement of social behaviours.
The research on pigs will have a strong quantitative genetic focus. The research on laying hens will focus more on the detection and analysis of animal behaviour. Both PhD-students will contribute to the understanding and improvement of the functioning of groups of pig or laying hens.

The research is part of the IMAGEN project that aims to develop sensing and AI technology for automated detection of behaviour in farm animals, in order to develop animal management and breeding solutions to improve social behaviour in laying hens and pigs. IMAGEN is a collaboration between Wageningen University and Research, Eindhoven University of Technology and Utrecht University, together with leading industry, with 5 PhD students and 2 post docs in total. The two PhD-candidates will be employed at Wageningen University, Animal Breeding and Genomics.

For more information about the IMAGEN project, you can watch the video below:

The research is embedded within the chair Animal Breeding and Genomics (Animal Breeding and Genomics Group - WUR), which is led by Prof. dr. Martien Groenen (prof.dr. MAM (Martien) Groenen - WUR). You will be supervised by Dr Piter Bijma (WUR), Dr Liesbeth Bolhuis (pigs, WUR), Prof. Bas Rodenburg (laying hens; UU).

Main industry partners: Topigs Norsvin (pigs), Hendrix Genetics (laying hens).


The candidate should have:

  • A Master's degree in a relevant quantitative field.
  • A strong interest in research, biology and technology
  • A strong interest in animal genetics and behaviour
  • A strong interest in statistical genetic analysis and mathematical modelling
  • Knowledge of computer scripting (e.g., experience with Python, Linux, or R)
  • A pro-active, independent working style and enthusiasm for multidisciplinary research
  • A creative and innovative attitude.
  • A social team player attitude with strong ability to collaborate with other researchers from different scientific fields and countries, as well as with the industrial partners of the project
  • Good organisational and (written and spoken) communication skills in English.
  • Willingness to travel internationally to present research findings at conferences.


Wageningen University & Research offers excellent terms of employment. A few highlights from our Collective Labour Agreement include:
  • sabbatical leave, study leave, and partially paid parental leave;
  • working hours that can be discussed and arranged so that they allow for the best possible work-life balance;
  • the option to accrue additional compensation / holiday hours by working more, up to 40 hours per week;
  • there is a strong focus on vitality and you can make use of the sports facilities available on campus for a small fee;
  • a fixed December bonus of 8.3%;
  • excellent pension scheme.
In addition to these first-rate employee benefits, you will receive a fully funded PhD position and you will be offered a course program tailored to your needs and the research team.
The gross salary for the first year is € 2.434,- per month rising to € 3.111,- in the fourth year in according to the Collective Labour Agreements for Dutch Universities (CAO-NU) (scale P). This is based on a full-time working week of 38 hours. We offer a temporary contract for 18 months which will be extended for the duration of the project if you perform well.

There are plenty of options for personal initiative in a learning environment, and we provide excellent training opportunities. We are offering a unique position in an international environment with a pleasant and open working atmosphere.
You are going to work at the greenest and most innovative campus in Holland, and at a university that has been chosen as the " Best University " in the Netherlands for the 17th consecutive time.

Coming from abroad
Wageningen University & Research is the university and research centre for life sciences. The themes we deal with are relevant to everyone around the world and Wageningen, therefore, has a large international community and a lot to offer to international employees. Applicants from abroad moving to the Netherlands may qualify for a special tax relief, known as the 30% ruling. Our team of advisors on Dutch immigration procedures will help you with the visa application procedures for yourself and, if applicable, for your family.

Feeling welcome also has everything to do with being well informed. Wageningen University & Research's International Community page contains practical information about what we can do to support international employees and students coming to Wageningen. Furthermore, we can assist you with any additional advice and information about helping your partner to find a job, housing, schooling, and other issues.

Additional information

Do you want more information?
For more information about this position, please contact Dr Piter Bijma, piter.bijma@wur.nl; +31317482731)

Do you want to apply?
You can apply directly using the apply button on the vacancy page on our website which will allow us to process your personal information with your approval.

This vacancy will be listed up to and including January 27, 2022.

Equal opportunities
Wageningen University & Research (WUR) employs a large number of people with very different backgrounds and qualities, who inspire and motivate each other. We want every talent to feel at home in our organisation and be offered the same career opportunities. We therefore especially welcome applications from people who are underrepresented at WUR. For more information please go to our inclusivity page. A good example of how WUR deals with inclusiveness can be read on the page working at WUR with a functional impairment.