Doctoral Position in Neuroethology

(65 %, E 13 TV-L)

Reference No.: 2024/102 . The start date is September 1st 2024, or by agreement. The position is initially available for three years.

The University of Konstanz is one of eleven Universities of Excellence in Germany. Since 2007 it has been successful in the German Excellence Initiative and its follow-up programme, the Excellence Strategy.

The Visual Neuroethology group headed by Dr. Anna Stöckl is recruiting a PhD candidate to study the dynamic visual abilities of nocturnal moths. Our growing lab at the University of Konstanz focuses on how insects process information for flower selection and movement control in varying light environments. We approach these questions using a combination of neurophysiology, neuroanatomy, quantitative behavioural methods and computational tools.

Project description:

Driving along a tree-lined avenue, we have all experienced how the rapid succession of light and shade disrupts our vision. Such conditions push even synthetic sensors to their limits, but many animals master these challenges on a daily—and nightly—basis. Indeed, a high dynamic range is a hallmark of natural sensory environments. For nocturnal animals, artificial light at night makes this range even more extreme, and poses a considerable challenge to their visual system. How then is dynamic visual information processed with the limited bandwidth available in neural circuits? And what role do an animal’s movements, which shape what it sees, play in matching the acquired information to the limited processing capacity? The visually-guided flight of nocturnal moths is uniquely suited for approaching these questions.

In this project, the PhD candidate will study the mechanisms underlying vision in dynamic light environments. The elephant hawkmoth (Deilephila elpenor) currently serves as a focus species. We plan to expand our investigations comparatively to other nocturnal moths. To dissect the neural basis of natural behaviour in dynamic light, the project will have a strong focus on quantitative behavioural measurements of the moths’ free flight in different light intensities, using newly established motion-capture tracking in a large flight arena. Depending on the candidate’s qualifications and interests, neurophysiological measurements of motion processing neurons, or quantifications of the natural and polluted light environments of moths, can complement this approach. Integrated into an expanding group in the international environment at Konstanz University, this research project will pioneer our understanding of how nocturnal insects cope with dynamic light environments, including artificial light pollution.

Your Responsibilities

    • Capturing moths’ free flight strategies in dynamic light, using state-of-the-art motion technology
    • Depending on the candidate’s profile and preferences: neurophysiological measurements of motion processing neurons / quantifications of the natural and polluted light environments of moths / computational modelling of moth vision in dynamic scenes
    • Active contributions to theoretical and practical research exchange

Your Competencies

    • Master sc. or equivalent in Biology, Neuroscience, or related fields
    • A strong interest in insect vision and neuroethology
    • Experience in quantitative behaviour/ animal tracking
    • Experience in computational tools or electrophysiology is preferable

We Offer

All Benefits

Application process:

  • Please supply a CV with the name of 2 references
  • In addition, applicants are required to include a research statement addressing the following prompts:
  1. Describe your main scientific interests, how they developed, and how they relate to the proposed research project. Explain what types of scientific questions most motivate you and why. (1 page)
  2. Describe 1-2 specific biological questions or hypotheses you would like to test within the described project. You should assume that you will have access to existing data (see below for a description of the available data) as well as the opportunity to collect new data. Explain what data you would collect (and/or use) and the analytical approach(es) you would employ to address your questions. (1 page, excluding any references)

Data description: Over the past year, we have recorded free-flight data of elephant hawkmoths in a 10 x 10 x 5m arena, in which we can reconstruct the position and body orientation of the insects at high spatial and temporal resolution (1 mm and 150 fps). We tested the moths in light conditions ranging from starlight to twilight, which were generated with an array of LED panels covering the entire ceiling of the arena, to simulate the sky. We also included localized artificial light sources with these background light conditions. We have also measured the spatiotemporal tuning of motion neurons of various hawkmoth species, which are key to flight control in insects. These neurons were measured in a range of light conditions as well, all after adapting the animals carefully to the respected intensity (Stöckl et al. (2016) Curr Biol. 26, 821-826 & Stöckl et al. (2017) Proc R Soc B.284, 20170880). For example figures of the data see here.

For further information please contact Anna Stöckl,

We look forward to receiving your application by 15th June 2024 via our Online Application Portal.

The University of Konstanz is committed to ensuring an environment that provides equal opportunities and promotes diversity, as well as a good balance between university and family life. As an equal opportunity employer, we strive to increase the number of women working in research and teaching. We also support working couples through our dual career programme. Persons with disabilities are explicitly encouraged to apply. They will be given preference if appropriately qualified (contact, + 49 7531 88-4016).



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