PhD position: Elephant Genomics

Published on
June 9, 2021
Location Wageningen
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We are looking for

Are you a biologist or geneticist witch a passion for wildlife conservation? Eager to use state-of-the-art genomics tools to facilitate breeding programmes for endangered species? Join our conservation genomics team on this exciting PhD project about Asian elephant genomics!

In this project you will formulate genomics-derived measures that are relevant for conservation, using the iconic Asian elephant as model. You will work on whole genome sequences and GBS data from the European captive Asian elephant population to gain insight in population structure and inbreeding. We propose to resolve the current ambiguous subspecies status of Asian elephants in the wild and screen these subspecies for a set of important genetic parameters: inbreeding level, overall genetic diversity, harmful mutations that can cause health issues and signs of local adaptation. In close collaboration with the studbook keeper (Rotterdam Zoo), these parameters are then applied to the European captive population of Asian Elephants to evaluate their genetic health status. Furthermore, you will use computer simulations to predict how these parameters will change over time under different population management strategies. These results can be used to guide management decisions of the captive population. Finally, you will evaluate the potential for reintroduction of the captive Asian elephant populations based on their genetic health status derived from the genomic measures, and will define optimal reintroduction strategy based on simulations.

For more information check this sites:

The research is embedded within the chair Animal Breeding and Genomics which is led by Prof. Martien Groenen. You will be co-supervised by Dr. Mirte Bosse  and Dr. Jack Windig 

We ask

You have:

  • a successfully completed MSc degree in (population) genetics, genomics, evolutionary biology, animal breeding or related field;
  • excellent English language proficiency (a minimum of CEFR C2 level). For more information about this proficiency level, please visit our special language page
  • demonstrable programming skills (R, Python, Fortran) and experience with computer simulations and handling large datasets 
  • Strong analytical skills;
  • Thorough understanding of both the technical and organizational aspects of studbooks and breeding programs. 
  • Affinity with zoological society, zoo research and/or captive breedingStrong communication skills, as you will play a key role in managing this project in close collaboration with Rotterdam Zoo, EAZA, the EAZA Biobank and all connected zoological institutes as well as in-situ conservation programmes. 

We offer

Wageningen University & Research offers excellent terms of employment. A few highlights from our Collective Labour Agreement include:
• sabbatical leave, study leave, and 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 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 € 2.395,- per month rising to € 3.061,- 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 16th 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.

More information

Do you want more information?
For more information about this position, please contact Dr. Mirte Bosse ( 
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 17 June. We hope to schedule the first job interviews on soon after the closing date. 

We are

Wageningen University & Research The mission of Wageningen University and Research is “To explore the potential of nature to improve the quality of life”. Under the banner Wageningen University & Research, Wageningen University and the specialised research institutes of the Wageningen Research Foundation have joined forces in contributing to finding solutions to important questions in the domain of healthy food and living environment.

With its roughly 30 branches, 6.500 employees and 12.500 students, Wageningen University & Research is one of the leading organisations in its domain. An integrated approach to problems and the cooperation between various disciplines are at the heart of Wageningen’s unique approach. WUR has been named Best Employer in the Education category for 2019-2020.

These are the points our employees list as good reasons to come work at WUR: read the 5 reasons to come work at WUR.

We will recruit for the vacancy ourselves, so no employment agencies please. However, sharing in your network is appreciated.

Apply now