Post - Doctoral Research Assistant in Ecology

University of Reading - School of Agriculture Policy & Development

We are looking to recruit a PDRA in Ecology to work in the School of Agriculture, Policy and Development on an exciting new NERC funded research project entitled: Degradation of Odour signals by Air Pollution: Chemical Mechanisms, Plume Dynamics and Insect-Orientation behaviour DOMINO .

Recent studies indicate that common atmospheric pollutants such as nitrogen oxides and ozone are capable of disrupting the Volatile Organic Compounds VOCs that many insects utilise for communication during critical stages of their life cycles, such as finding mates, floral resources or hosts. However, in order to unravel the mechanisms by which air pollution disrupts chemical communication between plants and insects and to assess its impacts on behaviour and ecology, it is critical to adopt new and innovative experimental methods that address the problem at temporal and spatial time scales relevant to the insects. This multidisciplinary research project will result in a step-change in our knowledge of this subject by radically advancing our conceptual understanding of how air pollution interacts with the VOCs that many insects rely on to communicate and interact with their environment.

Within this project, you will conduct studies to assess how the changes that air pollution causes to floral VOCs and pheromones, within an odour plume, affect insect in-flight orientation behavior. You will also assess in-field the impacts that degradation of floral VOCs and pheromones have on insect ecology and the ecosystem services that insects provide. The two model systems that you will use for these studies will be the silver Y moth Autographa gamma and the buff-tailed bumblebee Bombus terrestris .

You will have:

  • A PhD or equivalent in Ecology or a related subject.
  • Excellent fieldwork and/or laboratory skills – in particular with respect to insect-based studies.
  • A knowledge of insect ecology.
  • Experience of designing and/or conducting ecological field trial studies and laboratory bioassays.
  • The ability to interact constructively and proactively with both internal and external collaborators.

Informal contact details
Contact role: Lecturer in Agroecology and Sustainable Agriculture
Contact name: Dr Robbie Girling
Contact phone: +44 0 118 378 8487
Contact email:

Alternative informal contact details
Contact role: Associate Professor in Physical Chemistry
Contact name: Dr Christian Pfrang
Contact phone: +44 0 118 378 8789
Contact email:

Closing Date: 01.09.2017
Interview Date: 19.09.2017

The University is committed to having a diverse and inclusive workforce and we welcome applications for job-share, part-time and flexible working arrangements which will be considered in line with business needs.

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South East England