Currently recruiting a postdoctoral researcher: Studying the role of plant chemicals and microbes as drivers of the gut microbiome and parasite resistance in monarch butterflies

A 2.5-year NSF-funded postdoctoral position is available in the laboratories of Jacobus de Roode and Nicole Gerardo at Emory University to study how chemicals and microbial symbionts of milkweed host plants shape the composition and function of the monarch butterfly microbiome.

Monarch butterfly caterpillars are specialist herbivores of milkweed plants, and previous work has shown that milkweeds with high concentrations of cardenolides (secondary metabolites) reduce parasite infection. Fecal transplant studies have shown that this plant-mediated resistance is at least in part driven by the monarch gut microbiome. However, it remains unknown how milkweeds alter the monarch microbiome. Do they provide the actual microbes, or do their secondary chemicals modulate the existing microbiome? In addition, we also do not yet know which aspects of the microbiome are protective against parasites.

The postdoctoral researcher will play an important role in leading the scientific investigation. They will have an opportunity to use a combination of experimentation, metagenomic sequencing, chemical analysis and microscopy to address the role of plant chemicals and microbes in driving monarch midgut microbiome assembly. They will also study the roles of microbial diversity, community membership and titer in modulating parasite resistance, and may study how bacterial biofilms and metabolites impact parasite infection. The postdoc is expected to be a dedicated mentor to undergraduate students. Experimental assistance will be provided by a lab specialist and greenhouse manager.

Candidates should have a Ph.D. or equivalent in genetics, ecology, microbiology or a related field, with a track record of publication in peer- reviewed journals. The ideal candidate for this position is collaborative and has experience with microbiology and metagenomics, including the creation of bioinformatics pipelines. Success requires excellent writing, communication and statistical skills. Experience with metabolomics is a plus.

The de Roode and Gerardo labs focus on host-parasite interactions and the ecological and evolutionary roles of microbial symbionts. De Roode and Gerardo share lab and greenhouse space and have collaborated since they started at Emory University in 2008. As a member of these labs, the postdoc will be part of a thriving and diverse community of postdocs, graduate students, lab specialists and undergraduate students. The postdoc will create an individual development plan with their mentors, and have opportunities for field work, conference attendance, participation in public outreach and development of teaching and grant writing skills. They will benefit from support provided through Emory’s Office of Postdoctoral Education. Emory University is located in Atlanta, a vibrant, liberal and international city.

To apply, please send a single PDF containing a cover letter, a CV, a one-page research statement, relevant publication(s) and the names and email addresses of three referees to by 1 September 2022. We intend for the position to start 1 January 2023, but some flexibility on start date is possible.

More information about the de Roode and Gerardo labs at Emory University can be found here and here.

Postdoctoral researchers

Our lab welcomes postdoctoral researchers with an interest in the ecology and evolution of parasites, and the evolution and genetics of animal migration. A strong preference is given to applicants who are willing to apply for their own funding. We are interested in postdocs with a wide variety of skills (e.g. molecular, experimental, theoretical) to work on monarch butterflies and their parasites. We are also interested in postdocs who would like to apply general ecological and evolutionary principles to the study of human malaria, and those who would like to study the genetic basis of animal migration. Check out Emory’s FIRST program, NSF’s Postdoctoral Research Fellowships in Biology program, NIH’s Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Awards scheme and the Human Frontier Science Program for a number of funding opportunities. Our lab may also be able to fund postdocs on research grants, pending availability.

Graduate students

As a graduate student in our lab, you will be trained in experimental approaches to disease ecology and evolution or population genetics, genomics and evolution. Many of our projects are collaborative, building on the expertise of multiple faculty members in our graduate program. Potential graduate students should contact Jaap de Roode and apply through the PBEE graduate program.

Undergraduate students

Our lab is interested in undergraduate students who are willing to spend at least 10 hours a week in our lab. A strong interest in ecology and evolution is a must, as is a strong motivation and healthy work ethic. There are many different ways in which to conduct undergraduate research in our lab, including volunteering, work-study, research for credit, and honors research. There are also opportunities through Emory’s undergraduate research programs. Note that Emory’s summer program is open to non-Emory students as well as Emory students.

High school students and teachers

We welcome inquiries from high school students and teachers to work in our lab. High school students and teachers work on a voluntary basis.