Open Positions

URPP Global Change Biodiversity Open Positions

The University of Zurich (UZH) Research Priority Programme (URPP) on Global Change and Biodiversity (GCB) is an established interdisciplinary research program ( Biodiversity is both a response variable affected by global change drivers (land use change, climate change, invasions, exploitation, and pollution)  and a factor modifying ecosystem processes and services that are essential to human well-being. An improved capability to predict the consequences of changes in drivers will aid improved prediction of the state of the environment. The URPP GCB implements innovative avenues in this research domain by using a latitudinal gradient approach based on interactions, feedback and scale, to provide a more reliable and robust knowledge of global change processes.

PhD position - Land-use effects on the functioning of anthropogenically-dominated landscapes

The University of Zurich Research Priority Program on Global Change and Biodiveristy is offering a 48-month PhD position for an early-stage researcher (ESR) in the area of sustainable land-use decisions.    

Job Description - We are seeking a highly motivated PhD student with a background in ecology, biology, environmental sciences, or a closely related discipline. The successful candidate will investigate diversity-functioning relationships at the landscape scale, using existing ground-based and remotely-sensed data. Experimental research has shown that biodiversity promotes the functioning of many ecosystems. However, this evidence mainly stems from relatively small and artificial setups and it therefore remains unclear whether the effects and mechanisms identified in these studies also operate in real-world landscapes, and how they impact the ecosystem services they provide. This project aims at bridging this important gap between experiments and the real world.

A planned secondment of 3 months at the "Swiss Biodiversity Forum" in Berne (Switzerland) is part of this project. During this secondment, the successful candidate will evaluate how landscape structure and planning could be leveraged to improve landscape-wide ecosystem functioning. For this part of the work, the ESR will closely work with Swiss stakeholders and with scientists at the "Swiss Biodiversity Forum". One anticipated outcome of the secondment is a fact sheet that will be published on the Forum's web site and that will inform stakeholder and policymakers on the importance of diversity in large landscapes.

The project involves the handling and statistical analysis of large amounts of data from satellite-remote sensing and from other sources; although training will be provided, prior experience in statistical data analysis, the processing of large data sets, or in programming (preferably in Python or C++) are an asset. Familiarity with ecological theory also is important. A high standard of written and spoken English is essential. German or French are desirable for the secondment, but not a requirement.

The successful candidate will be based at the Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies of the University of Zurich, Switzerland. The PhD project also is part of the large interdisciplinary research priority programme "Global Change and Biodiversity" of the University of Zurich. The programme offers exciting opportunities for training and interactions with other researchers, both within and across disciplines. The PhD candidate will jointly be supervised by Pascal Niklaus ( and Eva Spehn at the Swiss Biodiversity Forum ( Further information about project and doctoral program can be found at

The position is for 4 years, starting on March 1, 2021.

Eligibility: Early stage researcher in the first 4 years (full-time equivalent) of their research careers, starting at the date of obtaining the degree which entitles them to begin a doctorate. Applicants must not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in Switzerland for more than 12 months since December 1, 2017. Compulsory national service and/or short stays such as holidays are not taken into account.

Application: All applications have to be submitted on-line using the application portal The following documents need to be uploaded in the course of this process: a letter of motivation to join the RESPONSE doctoral programme and to apply for this specific position (named “ESR 19”); a comprehensive tabular CV; and transcripts of records. Applications via email or postal services will not be considered.

Funding information: The position is jointly funded by the University of Zurich Research Priority Program “Global Change and Biodiversity” ( and the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation program, specifically the Doctoral Program “RESPONSE - to society and policy needs through plant, food and energy sciences”.

For further information, please contact Pascal Niklaus (