PhD fellowship in Plant-Insect Ecology, Department of Biology, Faculty of SCIENCE, University of Copenhagen


The Integrative Evolutionary Biology (IEB) group in the Department of Biology at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark is offering a PhD scholarship in plant-insect ecology starting 1 October 2024 at the earliest. The University of Copenhagen provides a top-notch research environment and the city of Copenhagen provides a vibrant cultural scene.   

The project

The PhD scholarship will be part of a newly established research project “Using nutrition to link land-use change and insect declines in Denmark” funded by the Independent Research Fund Denmark.

Insect herbivores are among the most ecologically important organisms globally. Their declining

numbers are thus concerning, but key causes remain unclear. At the same time, plant communities have changed dramatically in Denmark over the past century in terms of dominant functional types. This project will explore how changes in plant community structure may have disrupted nutritional food web dynamics and changed foraging options for herbivorous insects. The core goals are to: 1) gain fundamental insights on causes of insect declines, 2) innovate cutting-edge methods in global change biology, and 3) help guide evidence-based decisions about maximizing habitat restoration benefits for insect diversity.

The PhD candidate is expected to participate in: 1) fieldwork testing for variation in insect foraging landscapes by comparing plant nutritional profiles in communities arrayed across a large-scale gradient of ecosystem intactness in Denmark and 2) the design of lab-based experiments that test

hypotheses about how changing plant foraging landscapes reduce insect fitness. Important research competences will include knowledge of (or desire to learn about) the North European flora, experience with nutritional analyses, ability to organize and perform fieldwork, insect husbandry, and experimental design.

Who are we looking for?

We are looking for candidates in the fields of ecology and plant taxonomy. Additional desired experience and interests include: insect husbandry, field work focusing on plant identification and sampling, and Danish language competency (advantageous, but not required).

Our group and research- and what do we offer?

The IEB group has developed techniques for exploring how nutrition shapes the ecology and evolution of herbivorous insects and their symbionts. A key interest is in exploring how insects meet their physiological needs while consuming plants that often contain low amounts or imbalanced ratios of crucial nutrients. Our research is driven by hypotheses that we test using diverse methodological approaches including extensive field work, laboratory studies of behavior and physiology, biochemical analyses of nutrients, as well as molecular and bioinformatics approaches. More information can be found on the webpage

The group is a part of the Department of Biology, Faculty of SCIENCE, University of Copenhagen. We are located in Copenhagen. Daily work will be based in the thriving research environment of the Section of Ecology and Evolution ( and involve close collaboration with Associate Professor Hans Henrik Bruun ( who is an expert in plant community ecology and historical biodiversity change. The project will involve a longer research stay abroad at a host institution to be determined.

We offer creative and stimulating working conditions in dynamic and international research environment.

In addition to the fulfilment of the above-mentioned qualifications stated in this application, the main criterion for selection will be the research potential of the applicant, the match with the project and good interpersonal skills. Additionally, the IEB group and the University of Copenhagen strive to reflect the diversity of society and welcomes applications from all qualified candidates regardless of personal background.  

Principal supervisor is is Associate Professor Jonathan Z. Shik, Section for Ecology and Evolution, Department of Biology, Email:, Direct Phone: +45 31152140.

Qualifications needed for the regular programme
To be eligible for the regular PhD programme, you must have completed a degree programme, equivalent to a Danish master’s degree (180 ECTS/3 FTE BSc + 120 ECTS/2 FTE MSc) in biology, biotechnology, microbiology, microbial ecology or a similar degree from other relevant research fields with good results. For information of eligibility of completed programmes, see General assessments for specific countries and Assessment database.

Terms of employment in the regular programme
Employment as PhD fellow is full time and for maximum 3 years.

Employment is conditional upon your successful enrolment as a PhD student at the PhD School at the Faculty of SCIENCE, University of Copenhagen. This requires submission and acceptance of an application for the specific project formulated by the applicant.

The terms of employment and salary are in accordance to the agreement between the Ministry of Finance and The Danish Confederation of Professional Associations on Academics in the State (AC). The position is covered by the Protocol on Job Structure.

Responsibilities and tasks in the PhD programme

  • Carry through an independent research project under supervision
  • Complete PhD courses corresponding to approx. 30 ECTS / ½ FTE
  • Participate in active research environments, including a stay at another research institution, preferably abroad
  • Teaching and knowledge dissemination activities
  • Write scientific papers aimed at high-impact journals
  • Write and defend a PhD thesis on the basis of your project

We are looking for the following qualifications:

  • Professional qualifications relevant to the PhD project
  • Relevant work experience
  • Embrace of an international research environment and interdisciplinary research
  • Curious mind-set with a strong interest in plant-insect interactions
  • A proven record of excellent English speaking, reading, and writing skills 


Application and Assessment Procedure

Your application including all attachments must be in English and submitted electronically by clicking APPLY NOW below.

Please include: 

  • Cover letter stating research interests and reasons for applying to this specific position (max. two pages)
  • Curriculum vitae including information about your education, experience, publications (if any), language skills and other skills relevant for the position
  • Original diplomas for Bachelor of Science or Master of Science and transcript of records in the original language, including an authorized English translation if issued in another language than English or Danish. If not completed, a certified/signed copy of a recent transcript of records or a written statement from the institution or supervisor is accepted.
  • Full contact details (name, address, e-mail, telephone numbers and addresses of 2 professional references).  

Application deadline:

The deadline for applications is 15 April 2024, 23:59 GMT +2.

We reserve the right not to consider material received after the deadline, and not to consider applications that do not live up to the abovementioned requirements.

The further process
After the deadline, a number of applicants will be selected for academic assessment by an unbiased expert assessor. You are then notified, whether you will be passed for assessment.

The assessor will assess the qualifications and experience of the shortlisted applicants with respect to the above mentioned research area, techniques, skills and other requirements. The assessor will conclude whether each applicant is qualified and, if so, for which of the two models. The assessed applicants will have the opportunity to comment on their assessment. You can read about the recruitment process at

Interviews with selected candidates are expected to be held in week 20.

For specific information about the PhD fellowship, please contact the principal supervisor.

General information about PhD study at the Faculty of SCIENCE is available at the PhD School’s website:

The University of Copenhagen wishes to reflect the surrounding community and invites all regardless of personal background to apply for the position




Part of the International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU), and among Europe’s top-ranking universities, the University of Copenhagen promotes research and teaching of the highest international standard. Rich in tradition and modern in outlook, the University gives students and staff the opportunity to cultivate their talent in an ambitious and informal environment. An effective organisation – with good working conditions and a collaborative work culture – creates the ideal framework for a successful academic career.


Application deadline: 15-04-2024
Employment start: 01-10-2024
Working hours: Full time
Department/Location: Biologisk Institut

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