RP08: Natural DNA methylation variation in clonal and outcrossing European Populus nigra populations - CLOSED FOR APPLICATIONS

  • PhD Supervisor(s): Lars Opgenoorth & Katrin Heer
  • Host Institution: Philipps-Universität Marburg, Marburg, Germany
  • Duration: 36 months
  • Fixed start date: 1 April 2018
  • Planned secondment(s): EcSeq Bioinformatics Leipzig (GE) (https://www.ecseq.com/) for WGBS data analysis, NIOO-KNAW Wageningen (NL) for learning methylation screening library preparation.

Trees as long-lived and sessile organisms are particularly challenged by climate change. Thus epigenetic changes via priming either during embryogenesis or at a later life stage might be particularly relevant for long-lived plant species, independent of whether these changes are heritable (generative/adaptation) or act during the lifetime (somatic/acclimation) only. Thus, studying epigenetic processes in trees might crucially contribute to our understanding of the strategy of these long-lived organisms for coping with environmental change and might help explain their ecological and evolutionary success. In this project, DNA methylation and TE variants will be screened in natural Populus nigra populations and Populus nigra italica clones that have been growing in natural environments along European-scale geographic and climatological gradients. Specifically we will characterize epigenetic population structure, associate methylation and TE variants with relevant ecological and climatic variables, and assess the contribution to epigenetic population structure of environmental induction relative to stably inherited methylation variation. DNA methylation and TE screening tools will include whole genome bisulfite sequencing, and targeted bisulfite sequencing. The project will interact closely with bioinformatics groups as well as stress experimental groups in the EpiDiverse network.


We seek a bright, highly motivated, and enthusiastic plant biologist with a background in either plant ecology, molecular ecology or (epi)genetics and with a keen interest in working at the interface between these disciplines. Candidates from related fields such as bioinformatics, agriculture/forestry, biogeography, with a strong interest in ecology and evolution, are also invited to apply. Experience with NGS technologies and/or bioinformatics are important advantages. 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. The willingness and ability for extensive fieldwork throughout Europe in the first year of the project is mandatory, as is a class B driving licence valid in EEA member states.

Contact information

Contact: Opgenoorth@uni-marburg.de (tel. +49 (0)6421 282 2080) or katrin.heer@uni-marburg.de (tel. +49 (0)6421 282 3374).


The position is a temporary appointment for a period of 3 years as a EU-Researcher. The Philipps-Universität supports women and strongly encourages them to apply. In areas where women are underrepresented, female applicants will be preferred in case of equal qualifications. Applicants with children are welcome – the Philipps-University is certified as a family-friendly university. Applicants with a disability as described in SGB IX (§ 2 Abs. 2, 3) will be preferred in case of equal qualifications. Application and interview costs cannot be refunded.

The tradition-rich Philipps-Universität - with 12 Leibniz Prize winners, one of Hesse’s leading research institutes – unites groundbreaking research with exemplary support for young scholars and researchers, with an attractive academic offering in a charming setting with a medieval historical city center. Biodiversity and climate research are among the core research fields at the Philipps-Universität.