I am always happy to hear from students at all levels that are interested in gaining research experience. I am open to ideas if you have something you would like to work on that broadly fits into the lab’s research themes, but we can also discuss available projects.

Before you get in touch, check out some of our publications and have a think about what kind of project and supervision would work for you. Things you might like to think about include: Your ideal balance of lab vs field work, Would you like to travel for field work & for how long (day trips only, two weeks, 3 months)?, Would you prefer to be based entirely in Hamilton for your research?, What would your future dream job be?, Do you have any particular skills, techniques or gadgets you’d like to learn?

The University of Waikato offers MSc and PhD scholarships, and is a fantastic place to study. Hamilton is a relatively small but vibrant town to live and work, offering a fantastic mix of rural and city life.

Open PhD position in our lab!

A complex systems approach to understanding the evolution of animal mating systems

Understanding the drivers of diverse animal mating systems remains a key challenge in evolutionary biology. In particular, monogyny, where males mate with a single female during their lifetime, remains an evolutionary puzzle because male animals typically maximise reproductive success by mating with multiple females. Monogynous mating systems consist of multiple life history and behavioural traits, including dramatic adaptations such as the lifelong fusing of tiny male anglerfish to a female or the spontaneous death of a male during mating to form a whole-body mating plug in garden spiders. However, intricate correlations between system elements make it difficult to understand their roles in mating system evolution.

Using Dolomedes fishing spiders as a model system, the PhD candidate will gain insight into the evolutionary pathways to monogyny by first developing a framework that enables the use of complex systems analysis to explore mating system evolution. They will also conduct a series of field and lab assays to quantify the behaviour and life history of New Zealand Dolomedes spiders. Together with data from several other Dolomedes spiders from around the globe, the PhD student will then use network science and comparative phylogenetic methods to disentangle evolutionary patterns in mating systems.

This PhD position involves a combination of computer, lab and field work, with considerable opportunities to travel to field sites around New Zealand and the Chatham Islands. You will be supervised by Dr Chrissie Painting (University of Waikato), Dr Dion O’Neale (University of Auckland), Professor Eileen Hebets (University of Nebraska), and Professor Matjaž Kuntner (National Institute of Biology in Slovenia), with opportunities to collaborate with other researchers and communities in New Zealand and abroad.

We are seeking an independent and highly motivated applicant with:

  • An Honours or MSc degree in evolutionary ecology, animal behaviour or environmental science
  • Experience in ecological field work and/or lab and field experiments
  • Strong statistical analysis skills (preferably in R)
  • Excellent communication skills in English (written and spoken)
  • An open mind and a general willingness to learn and work in a team
  • A full driver’s license

This is a fully funded PhD position for 3 years (an annual stipend of $35,000, plus tuition fees and research costs). We encourage both international and domestic students to apply for this position, which will be based in the Invertebrate Behavioural Ecology lab at the University of Waikato in Kirikiriroa/Hamilton, Aotearoa New Zealand. Kirikiriroa is a relatively small but vibrant town to live and work, offering a fantastic mix of rural and city life. It is also centrally located in the North Island of New Zealand, making it a great base from which to travel the North Island. The successful student would ideally start by June 2023.

Interested candidates should send applications as a single PDF document comprising 1) a letter of motivation that clearly outlines your interest in the advertised project, 2) a curriculum vitae, including scientific publications if applicable, 3) academic transcripts, and 4) contact details for two academic references to Dr Chrissie Painting (chrissie.painting@waikato.ac.nz). Deadline for applications: 31st March 2023 23:00 NZST

Downloadable pdf: here.