1.5-year Postdoctoral research position

Dispersal syndromes and plasticity in microcosms

We are currently accepting applications for an early researcher postdoc position to work on a project focused on dispersal syndromes and plasticity in microcosms. Position is for a bit more than 1.5 yr, from the start date (as soon as possible) to 31/12/2023. It is based in my research group at UCLouvain, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium. Specific funding rules for this position limit eligibility to early stage researchers (<6 years post-PhD defense) who have lived less than 12 months in Belgium during the past 3 years.


We are looking for a highly motivated and dynamic candidate with deep conceptual interests in evolutionary, spatial and experimental ecology, ideally in phenotypic plasticity and dispersal. The ideal candidate will be at ease in planning and designing experiments, including developing tailored experimental systems, possess an interest and experience in data management, statistical analysis and programming (R, Python), and be a collaborative worker. Interested candidates that are currently finishing their PhD are strongly encouraged to apply.


Insightful concepts and experiments have emphasized the pivotal role of dispersal for the dynamics of metapopulations, metacommunities and functioning of meta-ecosystems. Meta-ecosystem theory however largely assumes random diffusive dispersal, contrasting with rising empirical evidence for both non-random dispersal and intraspecific variability in dispersal strategies. Dispersal is especially often associated with a suite of phenotypic traits, forming dispersal syndromes that can generate heterogeneity in the distribution of key functional traits in meta-ecosystems.


The postdoc will join a dynamic international team whose research interests range from understanding the genetic mechanisms underlying individual phenotypes, including dispersal, to the consequences of variability in dispersal strategies and other phenotypic traits for (meta)populations and (meta)communities, using both theory and experiments. Using a new experimental development of the Tetrahymena thermophila ciliate model microcosms, recently developed in the team and allowing to follow individuals during their dispersal movement, the candidate will explore for the first time the mechanisms underlying the establishment of dispersal syndromes, and design experiments to quantify the consequences of different dispersal strategies for metapopulation dynamics. The candidate will furthermore be encouraged to contribute to the project objectives by developing synergistic projects based on their own interests and expertise, and will have the opportunity to closely interact with theoreticians in order to set-up experiments to validate or reject theoretically-derived predictions. Opportunities to develop mentoring abilities by supervising Master or PhD students, as well as contributing to teaching at UCLouvain will be available should the candidate be interested in such aspects.


The position will be co-supervised by Prof. Nicolas Schtickzelle (UCLouvain, Belgium) and Dr. Staffan Jacob (Theoretical and Experimental Ecology Station, Moulis, CNRS, France) within the framework of a long-term collaboration. The postdoc is based at UCLouvain, where most experiments will be conducted, but the candidate will perform regular visits at Moulis.


Applicants should send a cover letter (1-2 pages describing motivation for the present project in light with previous and current research activities) and CV (including list of publications) to Prof. N. Schtickzelle (nicolas.schtickzelle@uclouvain.be) and Dr S. Jacob (staffan.jacob@sete.cnrs.fr) before 02/05/2022. Short-listed candidates will be interviewed later in May.



Related publications:

  • Raffard A, Bestion E, Cote J, Haegeman B, Schtickzelle N, Jacob S (2022) Dispersal syndromes can link intraspecific trait variability and meta-ecosystem functioning. Trends in Ecology and Evolution. in press

  • Laurent E, Schtickzelle N, Jacob S (2020) Fragmentation mediates thermal habitat choice in ciliate microcosms. Proc.Roy.Soc.B. 287, 20192818

  • Jacob S, Laurent E, Morel-Journel T, Schtickzelle N (2020) Fragmentation and the context‐dependence of dispersal syndromes: matrix harshness modifies resident‐disperser phenotypic differences in microcosms. Oikos. 129, 158-169

  • Jacob S, Chaine AS, Clobert J, Huet M, Legrand D. (2019) Variability in dispersal syndromes is a key driver of metapopulation dynamics in experimental microcosms. The American Naturalist. 194, 613-626

  • Jacob S, Laurent E, Haegeman B, Bertrand R, Prunier JG, Legrand D, Cote J, Chaine AS, Loreau M, Clobert J, Schtickzelle N. (2018) Habitat choice meets thermal specialization: competition with specialists may drive suboptimal habitat preferences in generalists. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 115, 11988-11993.

  • Jacob S, Legrand D, Chaine AS, Bonte D, Schtickzelle N, Huet M, Clobert J. (2017) Gene flow favours local adaptation under habitat choice in ciliate microcosms. Nature Ecology and Evolution. 1, 1407-1410.

  • Pennekamp F, Mitchell K, Chaine AS, Schtickzelle N. 2014. Dispersal propensity in Tetrahymena thermophila ciliates – a reaction norm perspective. Evolution.


Prof. Nicolas Schtickzelle

UCLouvain, Earth and Life Institute

1348 Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium



Dr Staffan Jacob

Theoretical and Experimental Ecology Station


2 route du CNRS, 09200 Moulis, France