News


We usually have MSc and BSc thesis projects available. Feel free to contact any lab member for more information.


September 2021

Lab member awarded Ambizione Fellowship

Congratulations to Fletcher Halliday, whose research project titled “Disease risk under environmental change and biodiversity loss – causes and consequences” has been selected for funding under the Swiss National Science Foundation Ambizione Fellowship program.

The research project builds on Fletcher’s ongoing work in the Calanda Biodiversity Observatory, and will leverage a large scale observational survey and experimental manipulations to explore the role that host traits play in determining disease risk under biodiversity loss across environmental gradients.


September 2021

Open PhD position

Understanding plant disease risk under environmental change and biodiversity loss


4-year PhD position in community ecology at the University of Zürich

Applications are invited for a 4-year PhD position to study biodiversity loss, environmental
change, and the community ecology of infectious diseases by combining experimental and
observational field approaches, using plants and their foliar pathogens as a model system.
Plant pathogens and their host plants often occur together in complex communities with
many interacting partners. These host and pathogen communities and ensuing host-
pathogen interactions often change predictably as habitats are disturbed and species are
lost. But how do these processes interact with changes in environmental conditions? One
possibility is that changing environmental conditions might affect these processes by altering
host traits related to growth, reproduction, and defense against enemies.


The aim of this PhD project is to study how changes in key host traits affect host
susceptibility to infection across an elevation gradient in Switzerland through a combination
of experiments and observational surveys. This project shares a research setting with a
study aimed at using mountain ecosystems to understand the interaction between
biodiversity and global change, which will provide students with an opportunity to interact
with researchers from a variety of backgrounds (and a beautiful backdrop for fieldwork).

Students with interest in disease ecology, community ecology, plant biology, or other related
fields are encouraged to apply. Prior expertise in trait-based approaches, experimental
design, statistical analysis, or basic molecular and disease diagnostic skills are a bonus, but
your most important assets are enthusiasm for research, motivation to learn new things, and
ability to work independently while being an active member of a research team.
The project is supervised by Dr. Fletcher Halliday in the research group of Prof. Anna-Liisa
Laine at the University of Zürich. The Laine lab has broad expertise in studying the
ecological and evolutionary dynamics of species interactions in natural populations (e.g.
Halliday et al. 2021 eLife, Laine et al. 2019 eLife, Sallinen et al. 2020 Nature
Communications).


To apply, please send a single PDF file merged from the following parts to
fletcher.halliday@ieu.uzh.ch: CV (with possible publications included), a copy of your
academic transcript records, contact details of two references (e.g. MSc thesis supervisor),
and a cover letter (MAX 1 page) with a description of your research interests and why you
would be a suitable candidate for the project. Please include the word “PhDDISEASE22” in
the subject line.


Applications will be considered until the position is filled. The position is available from
January 1, 2022. For more information, please visit https://fletcherhalliday.com/ or contact
fletcher.halliday@ieu.uzh.ch. The working language is English. German skills, although not
essential, are helpful. Zürich is a highly attractive city in beautiful surroundings, with a
multinational population, and many educational and recreational opportunities.


Highlighted in commentary in New Phytologist:

Biodiversity–disease relationships in wild plant communities differentially affected by land use

Read the full article here.

Based on: Susi, H. and Laine, A.-L., 2021. Agricultural land use disrupts biodiversity mediation of virus infections in wild plant populations. New Phytologist, 230: 2447-2458. doi: 10.1111/nph.17156


June 2021

Highlighted in eLife Digest:

Plants, parasites and infectious disease risk

The interplay between changes in temperature, biodiversity, and ecology needs to be considered to predict how global climate change influences infectious disease risk in plants.

Read the full article here.

Based on: Halliday, F. W., Jalo, M. and Laine, A.‐L., 2021. The effect of host community functional traits on plant disease risk varies along an elevational gradient. eLife. doi: 10.7554/eLife.67340


January 2021

PhD position in Evolutionary Ecology (4 years)100 % — Update: position closed —

How does the environment modify interactions between plant and microbial communities along an elevation gradient?

Plants and their microbes make up much of terrestrial biodiversity, and understanding how their interactions are changing under global change is critical for both natural ecosystems as well as food production. Applications are invited for a 4-year PhD position to study the community ecology of plant and microbial species interactions by combining experimental and observational field approaches.

Theory predicts that plant community structure and plant-microbe interactions can change along environmental gradients, yet evidence for how these factors interact with one another has remained scarce. Biodiversity and ecosystem productivity increase toward low latitudes and elevations, generating corresponding increases in the intensity of species interactions. However, the ecological consequences of such variation on relationships between plant and microbial communities is unknown. This project is part of a larger study aimed at using mountain ecosystems to understand the interaction between biodiversity and global change. The aim of this PhD project is to study plant communities and their impacts and responses to microbial species interactions across an elevation gradient in Alpine populations in Switzerland through a combination of experiments and observational surveys.

Motivated students with a MSc degree in biodiversity, ecology, disease ecology, plant biology, or other related fields are encouraged to apply. Prior expertise in botanical surveying, experimental design, statistical analysis, or molecular techniques are a bonus, but your most important assets are enthusiasm for research, motivation to learn new things, and ability to work independently while being an active member of a research team.

The project is supervised by Dr. Fletcher Halliday and Prof. Anna-Liisa Laine at the University of Zurich. The Laine lab has broad expertise in studying the ecological and evolutionary dynamics of species interactions in natural populations (e.g. Halliday et al. 2020 Nature EcoEvo, Laine et al. 2019 eLife, Sallinen et al. 2020 Nature Communications).

To apply, please send a single (!) PDF file merged from the following parts to jacqueline.moser@ uzh.ch: CV (with possible publications included), a copy of your academic transcript records, contact details of two references (e.g. MSc thesis supervisor), and a cover letter (MAX 1 page) with a description of your researcher interests and why you would be a suitable candidate for the project. Please include the word “PhDCALANDA21” in the subject line.

Applications will be considered until the position is filled. The position is available from March 1, 2021.

For more information, please visit our website at https://lainelab.net/ or contact fletcher.halliday@uzh.ch and anna-liisa.laine@uzh.ch.

The working language is English. German skills, although not essential, are helpful. Zurich is a highly attractive city in beautiful surroundings, with a multinational population, and many educational and recreational opportunities.


July 2020

Open Post doctoral positions — Update: positions closed —

Four postdoctoral positions are currently open at REC. Apply by August 16. More information here.


July 2020

Congratulations to Layla for a successful PhD!

PhD candidate Layla Höckerstedt successfully defended her thesis ‘Evolutionary and ecological dimensions of disease resistance’ with Prof Åsa Lankinen (SLU) as her opponent and the thesis was Passed with distinction.
Click here to access her E-thesis


June 2020

Field research featured in the local newspaper Haldensteiner Bote

The fieldwork done in summer 2019 on the Calanda mountain was showcased in the local newspaper Haldensteiner Bote.


October 2019

Short video series on biodiversity

We published a series of ten short videos about environmental change and biodiversity. The episodes cover what biodiversity is, who benefits from it, who studies it, how they study it, what threatens it and what we can do about these threats.

The videos are aimed for school children between ages 11-16 and the content of the videos was brainstormed together with teachers in order to come up with a format that would suit the target audience. Click here for more information.

Click here to see the videos.


July 2019

Funding for research aiming to develop climate smart agricultural practices

Our consortium proposal ‘MULTA: Multi-benefit solutions to climate-smart agriculture’ led by Prof. Jari Lisk received funding from the Strategic Research Council (Academy of Finland).

The food system is facing a need for a systemic change to harness its significant potential to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions while producing healthy food sustainably to a growing population under changing environmental conditions.

A promising future direction is to promote management practices that enhance the ability of soils to sequester atmospheric carbon dioxide. Regenerative agriculture supports also other sustainability goals, such as soil health and productivity, biodiversity, water quality, resilience and food quality.


A rupturing powdery mildew fungus particle, releasing sexually produced spores. Image credit: Laine et al. (CC BY 4.0

18 June 2019

Research featured

Our article ‘Variable opportunities for outcrossing result in hotspots of novel genetic variation in a pathogen metapopulation’ was featured on the eLife Digest forum.
Link to story.

Laine, A-L., Barrès, B., Numminen, E. & Sirén, J. 2019. Variable opportunities for outcrossing result in hotspots of novel genetic variation in a pathogen metapopulation. eLife 8:47091.