The Forest Ecology and Forest Management Group (part of the Environmental Sciences Group) of Wageningen University is looking for two highly motivated PhD candidates with the following qualifications:
• An MSc degree in a relevant field, including: biology, forest & nature conservation, plant sciences or wood sciences
• Affinity with quantitative techniques and statistical analyses of large, complex datasets
• Experience with wood anatomy, wood chemistry, soil analyses or isotope analyses (PhD 1)
• Experience with molecular genetic analyses or population genetics (PhD 2)
• Good oral and written communication in English, and good inter-cultural communication skills
• Experience with ecological field work in a tropical country, is a plus
What Wageningen offers
Two 48 months PhD positions are available. For each of these, the the Forest Ecology and Management group offers a temporary contract for 18 months which will be extended with another thirty months if you perform well. Gross salary per month: from € 2.266,- in the first year till € 2.897 in the fourth year, based on full time employment. A part time employment is negotiable. The positions will start on December 1st, 2018 at the earliest.
Interested? Do not email directly to the people mentioned above. Please use the website to apply and upload your CV and a motivation letter before November 1st, 2018. Indicate clearly whether you apply for PhD 1 or PhD 2. Additional information about this project can be obtained from Prof Pieter Zuidema (email@example.com).
Candidates that are selected for the interview stage will be asked to give a short presentation on research background and their views on the project.
An estimated 50-90 percent of the traded volume of tropical timber is illegally sourced. Important European and national initiatives are taken to ban illegal timber import. For these initiatives to be effective, tools are required that independently verify the origin of timber. Such forensic tools can be based on chemical and genetic characteristics of traded timber, which are used to verify its geographic origin and taxonomic identity. Yet, forensic tools for tropical timber tracing are not available because of low spatial resolution, low DNA quality, lack of standardization and the absence of international reference databases.
The NWO-funded TIMTRACE project (‘Forensic tracing of tropical timber: delivering an operational service’) aims to break down these barriers and deliver a timber tracing tool available for potential users. These potential users include authorities, timber industry, NGOs and certifying bodies. Within this project, the Forest Ecology and Forest Management Group has two PhD positions available: one on the development of chemical tracing techniques (PhD 1) and one on the development of genetic tracing techniques (PhD 2).
The TIMTRACE project is funded by NWO-TTW (Applied and Engineering Science) with co-funding from an NGO (Tropenbos International), timber companies, a certifying company and a forensic lab. It has been funded within the Open Technology Programme of NWO-TTW, implying an important role for users of the timber tracing tool. A users’ committee consisting of representatives from industry, authorities and NGOs will guide the project. The project is jointly executed by the Forest Ecology and Management group (Wageningen University), Plant Breeding, Animal Ecology and RIKILT (Wageningen Research), and international partners.
Within the TIMTRACE project, it is planned to develop and test tracing tools for three major tropical timbers imported to the Netherlands: Meranti (Shorea spp), Azobé (Lophira alata) and Tali (Erythrophleum spp). The two PhD students will collect large amounts of wood samples of these timbers from forestry concessions and other forested areas in West and Central Africa and in SE Asia. Sample collection will be conducted in close collaboration with forestry companies, NGOs and certifying companies. The PhD students will be responsible to prepare and conduct chemical (PhD 1) and genetic (PhD 2) lab analyses, at Wageningen University & Research. With the study of PhD 1 we aim to test new chemical techniques and increase the spatial resolution of chemical tracing techniques. To do so, PhD 1 will combine analyses of 5 stable isotopes and 60 trace and rare earth elements in wood samples. PhD 2 will help overcoming limitations due to low DNA quality extracted from wood, and increase spatial resolution of genetic tracing, by developing and applying SNP (Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms) markers. Both PhD students will perform assignment tests and blind sample tests to evaluate the quality and accuracy of these techniques and their potential to be used in forensic studies.