PhD position in Behavioural Ecology, Wageningen University, The Netherlands

Published on
December 6, 2017

Vocal communication and breeding decisions in wild zebra finches

PhD position:
We offer a 4 year PhD Position (1.0 FTE) to undertake research on communication and breeding decisions in wild zebra finches within the Behavioural Ecology chair group at Wageningen University, the Netherlands in cooperation with Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. This position is financed by an Open Competition ALW grant by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO).

Project details

The aim of this project is to determine how animals respond behaviourally and physiologically in their breeding decisions to climatic variability, using wild zebra finches in the Australian arid zone as model. Zebra finches are the best-studied avian model organism under laboratory conditions, yet decisions and signals used to time and optimize reproduction in nature are poorly understood. Here we will use a long-term monitored Australian field population to identify how birds signal to achieve physiological and behavioural synchrony for optimizing reproduction. While the project consider all vocal signals including calls, it will specifically test hypotheses on the function of male song. This unique field project will provide key advances in our understanding of signalling and behavioural decisions of animals breeding under ecologically challenging and unpredictable climatic conditions. It also will open new doors for understanding social functions of elaborate signals and for laboratory studies on behavioural mechanisms using ecologically refined conditions. The project is supervised by Prof. Marc Naguib at Wageningen University in collaboration with Prof. Simon Griffith at Macquarie University in Sydney. The field research will be conducted at a well established zebra finch population at Fowlers Gap Research Station in New South Wales, Australia.

We ask

  • MSc-degree in Biology with specialization in Animal Behaviour / Behavioural Ecology or equivalent experience
  •  Strong experimental and analytical skills
  • Good organizational and (written and spoken) communication skills in English
  • Proven ability to collaborate with others.
  •  Willingness to conduct and organize extensive ornithological fieldwork at a remote location.
  •  Willingness to travel internationally, to attend conferences and visit other institutes.
  •  A driving licence

We offer

  • A contract with full social benefits based on the Collective Employment Agreement of the Dutch Universities (CAO for 38 hrs/week. Initially the PhD-appointment will be for a period of 18 months. Continuation of the appointment with another 30 months is contingent on a positive performance evaluation. Based on a full time appointment, gross salary will be € 2.222 per month in the first year, rising each year up to €2.840 per month in the fourth year and includes contribution to a pension scheme. The salary is supplemented with a holiday allowance (8%) and an end of year bonus of 8,3% % of the gross salary per year.
  • Participation in the training program of the Graduate School WIAS at Wageningen University.
  • Stimulating international research environment
  • An excellent opportunity to develop an international scientific network.

The organization

The successful candidate will join the stimulating and international research environment of Wageningen University & Research. Wageningen University is worldwide renowned for its research and education in the field of life sciences. Through these activities it aims to make essential contributions to the quality of life. This approach has led to Wageningen University being ranked as the best agricultural university and #1 in environment & ecology in the world according to the National Taiwan University Ranking 2017.

This project will be carried out in the Behavioural Ecology Group within the Department of Animal Sciences with fieldwork being carried out at Fowlers Gap Research Station in NSW, Australia.

For further information, please contact Marc Naguib (  The application deadline is 7 January 2018. - Applications should include a letter of motivation, CV and names of three references.

Please apply through this website: