Doctoral student opening (with Dr. Stavros Veresoglou)

Doctoral student (3 yr) in the Rillig lab at Freie Universität Berlin
TV-L E 13 65%, 36 months
Reference code: SAC002

We invite applications for a PhD studentship funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft within the priority program Biodiversity Exploratories which aims at adapting a species-area framework for microbial taxa. The project is led by Dr. Stavros Veresoglou.

Job description:
Unlike traditional ecologists that can often identify and count every single individual in a study area, a microbial ecologist, particularly when working with soil, has to infer these diversity metrics. The usual procedure involves subsampling tiny volumes of habitat, relative to the size of the study area. This assumes that these are representative of the surrounding habitat; and, depending on the resolution of the technique used, it means assaying a representative but not complete fraction of the community in that sample. For this project we will use an adaptation of the species area curves (SAC) methodology to address this limitation. The PhD candidate is expected to collaborate with an existing team at Freie Universität Berlin and address the following objectives:
1) How do SAC estimates of beta diversity relate to those produced from exhaustive sampling of the soil habitat?
2) How does land use intensity influence alpha- and beta- diversity of microbial communities?
3) Are there undocumented systematic biases in assaying diversity with traditional molecular methods across land use gradients?

Master’s degree in Molecular Biology or a related field. C1-certified skills in English (via certificates such as TOEFL IBT 110/120; IELTS 8) or English as language of instruction at previous university. Excellent molecular-lab skills.

Evidence of previous work with molecular techniques and experience with aseptic techniques.

Applications for the position can be forwarded by 31.07.2017 in PDF format electronically (if possible in a single PDF documet) to Dr. Stavros Veresoglou, stating the position code.


Urban soil microbial ecology scholarship opening

To support research ongoing in a BMBF-funded project “Bridging in Biodiversity Research” (BIBS) we are looking for a doctoral student to carry out work on soil molecular microbial ecology in approx. 60 grassland sites around the city of Berlin, Germany (plus potentially additional sites in the surrounding landscape). These sites form part of the CityScapeLabs and many research teams carry out their own measurements there.

The offer is for a scholarship (1.400 EUR per month), initially for 1 year, renewable to 3 years to carry out this work and to engage with the rest of the team. The research costs are fully covered. Organism groups to be assessed along the urbanity gradient can include bacteria and fungi, as well as other specific groups in which the candidate is interested. The candidate should be interested in soil ecology and urban ecology and will join our dynamic lab of currently 50 persons, as well as the BIBS consortium with ample opportunties for collaborations. Prior experience with molecular methods, statistics and/or high-throughput sequencing is desirable. The successful candidate will be enrolled in the new Biodiversity, Ecology & Evolution doctoral program at Freie Universität Berlin.

To apply, please send your cv to – position open until filled. Candidates must have completed their MSc degree. We are looking for someone to start as soon as possible.

Postdoc (5-year) in ecology (fungi, global change, community coalescence, soil biodiversity,…)

We are looking for a postdoc to join our team. The position is for 5 years and comes with 4 credits of teaching per semester. The teaching would be in ecology and could also be delivered in English, for example in advanced BSc courses or in the MSc Biodiversity.

Applicants must have a Ph.D. in ecology, microbiology or related field.

The area of research is relatively open; however, the postdoc should reinforce one of the current research themes in our lab. This includes work on mycorrhizal ecology (AM fungi), microbial community coalescence, global change (see ERC Advanced Grant), soil biodiversity and soil aggregation. The candidate can use theoretical/ modeling or experimental approaches, and preference will be given to candidates who can bridge between experimental and theoretical/ modeling work. Excellent command of English is desirable, as is advanced knowledge of statistics (using the R environment), and a general background in community ecology, soil ecology or related field.

Please send applications by 27.03.2017 preferably as one pdf per email to Prof. Dr. Matthias Rillig: quoting “21223700/05/17”, the position code, in the header of the email. For more info on the lab please see


The official advertisement in German:

Fachbereich Biologie, Chemie, Pharmazie
Institut für Biologie

Wiss. Mitarbeiterin / Wiss. Mitarbeiter (Postdoc)
befristet bis zu 5 Jahre
Entgeltgruppe 13 TV-L FU
Kennung: 21223700/05/17


  • Mitarbeit in Forschung und Lehre (4 LVS) auf dem Gebiet der Pflanzen- und Bodenpilzökologie
  • Die Tätigkeit dient der eigenen wiss. Qualifizierung


  • Promotion in Ökologie, Mikrobiologie oder vergleichbarem Gebiet


  • Durch Publikationen nachgewiesene Befähigung zu Arbeiten im Bereich Pflanzen- und/ oder Bodenökologie mit einem erwünschten Schwerpunkt auf Pilzen


Die Stelleninhaberin/ der Stelleninhaber soll mindestens ein Schwerpunktthema der AG Rillig (siehe verstärken, zum Beispiel Mykorrhizaökologie (arbuskuläre Mykorrhiza), Microbial Community Coalescence, Global Change Ökologie, Bodenbiodiversität, Bodenaggregation, oder andere. Dabei können theoretisch-modellierende Ansätze und Experimente eingesetzt werden; Kandidatinnen und Kandidaten, die zwischen diesen Ansätzen (modellierend, empirisch) überbrücken können werden bevorzugt. Weiterhin sind exzellente Englischkenntnisse, fortgeschrittene Statistikkenntnisse (vorzugsweise mit R) von Vorteil, sowie Grundkenntnisse in allgemeiner Lebensgemeinschaftsökologie, Bodenökologie oder Mykorrhiza; ebenso Grundlagen der Bodenkunde.

Weitere Informationen über die AG siehe:

Bewerbungen sind mit aussagekräftigen Unterlagen bis zum 27.03.2017 unter Angabe der Kennung im Format PDF elektronisch per E-Mail zu richten an Herrn Prof. Dr. Matthias Rillig: oder per Post an die

Freie Universität Berlin
Fachbereich Biologie, Chemie, Pharmazie
Institut für Biologie
Herrn Prof. Dr. Matthias Rillig
Altensteinstr. 6
14195 Berlin (Dahlem)

Mit der Abgabe einer Onlinebewerbung geben Sie als Bewerber/in Ihr Einverständnis, dass Ihre Daten elektronisch verarbeitet und gespeichert werden. Wir weisen darauf hin, dass bei ungeschützter Übersendung Ihrer Bewerbung auf elektronischem Wege von Seiten der Freien Universität Berlin keine Gewähr für die Sicherheit übermittelter persönlicher Daten übernommen werden kann.



Doctoral student: root traits

(For German version please see below) Position is now closed.

We are looking for a doctoral student (3 yr) to work on root biology (trait-based ecology) in the project “Belowground functional traits of plants as drivers of biodiversity and ecosystem functions” within the Biodiversity Exploratories. Within the project (a collaboration with Mark van Kleunen, Konstanz), we aim to quantify root traits for 300 plant species occuring in the Exploratories.

Applicants need to hold a MSc degree in biology, ecology or other pertinent area. The ideal candidate has experience with the logistics of greenhouse experiments, excellent statistical skills and good working knowledge of roots, soil and root-colonizing fungi.

Please send application materials by 20.2.2017 (cv, publication list, scans of diplomas when available, names of references) to rillig@zedat.fu-berlin in one pdf using “Rillig-BE-Roots” in the email header.

In German:

Wiss. Mitarbeiter / Wiss. Mitarbeiterin
mit 65%-Teilzeitbeschäftigung
befristet auf 3 Jahre
Entgeltgruppe 13 TV-L FU
Kennung: Rillig-BE-Roots


Forschung auf dem Gebiet der Wurzelbiologie (Trait-Ökologie) im Rahmen des Schwerpunktprogramms Biodiversitäts-Exploratorien und dem Projekt „Belowground functional traits of plants as drivers of biodiversity and ecosystem functions“, das gemeinsam mit der Universität Konstanz (Prof. Mark van Kleunen) bearbeitet wird. Im Projekt sollen Wurzel-Traits von ungefähr 300 Pflanzenarten gemessen werden, wobei der Schwerpunkt des Projekts in Berlin auf Wurzelanatomie-, architektur, und -endophyten liegt. Diese Daten sollen dann im Kontext der Biodiversitäts-Exploratorien (z.B. Landnutzungsintensität) analysiert werden.


  • Abgeschlossenes wiss. Hochschulstudium (Master) in Ökologie, Pflanzenbiologie, oder vergleichbarem Gebiet


  • Einschlägige Erfahrungen in der Durchführung und Logistik von Gewächshausexperimenten
  • Weiterhin sind exzellente Englischkenntnisse,
  • sehr gute Statistikkenntnisse (vorzugsweise mit R) von Vorteil, sowie Grundkenntnisse in allgemeiner Lebensgemeinschaftsökologie, Wurzelbiologie, Bodenökologie und/ oder Mykorrhiza.

Bewerbungen sind mit aussagekräftigen Unterlagen bis zum 20.02.2017 unter Angabe der Kennung im Format PDF elektronisch per E-Mail zu richten an Herrn Prof. Dr. Matthias Rillig: oder per Post an die

Freie Universität Berlin
Fachbereich Biologie, Chemie, Pharmazie
Institut für Biologie
Herrn Prof. Dr. Matthias Rillig
Altensteinstr. 6
14195 Berlin (Dahlem)

Postdoc position (3yr)- molecular ecology of soil fungi in agroecosystems

Within the ERA-NET BiodivERsA 3 Project “Agro-ecosystem diversification: digging deeper”, we offer a three-year postdoc position (E13 TV-L FU 100%) located in Berlin. Deadline for application: January 2, 2017.

The position is to carry out research on soil fungal ecology within the framework of this joint project. Using different agroecological sampling sites the diversity of fungi is to be assessed, inclusive of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. Central to the project is the link between biodiversity and multifunctionality in agroecosystems in Europe. High-throuput sequencing (Illumina MiSeq or others) is to be used, together with more classical methods. A central process-level variable is soil aggregation.

Applicants should hold a Ph.D. degree in ecology, soil biology, microbiology or other relevant field. In addition we look for the following:

  • Experience with high-throughput sequencing, ideally of fungal communities, including pertinent bioinformatics
  • excellent knowledge of English
  • good knowledge of statistics with R, especially pertaining to the analysis of community data
  • basic knowledge of soil ecology, fungal ecology and/ or agroecosystems
  • willingness to do fieldwork, and a driver license

Please send all application materials (cv, list of publications, ideally copies of diplomas/ degrees) in one pdf per email to quoting “Rillig-biodiversa” in the email subject line. All applications received by January 2, 2017 will receive full consideration.




Postdoc position: Experimental microbial community ecology (fungi; global change)

For full consideration send in all materials by: 31.10.2106

This approx. 5-year position is offered within the ERC Advanced Grant Project „Gradual and abrupt environmental change: concurrent physiological, evolutionary and community composition shifts“. A short summary is available online:

Position description

(English) Carrying out experimental work in the ERC project. These experiments have an eco-evolutionary focus and are mainly conceptualized as microcosm experiments with saprobic soil fungi. It is planned to examine the effects of various global change factors in experiments with varying degrees of complexity; the main factor to be examined is increasing temperature. The main focus is on saprobic fungi and their communities, as well as pertinent ecosystem processes. It is additionally envisaged to carry out a garden or greenhouse experiment on these questions. The incumbent is also invited to actively contribute to concept development in questions surrounding the proposal topic.

(German) Durchführung von experimentellen Arbeiten in einem ERC Projekt; diese Experimente haben eine öko-evolutionäre Ausrichtung und sind hauptsächlich geplant als Mikrokosmenversuche mit Bodenpilzen. Dabei sind Effekte von verschiedenen Global Change Faktoren in unterschiedlicher Komplexität zu untersuchen, mit einem Fokus auf Temperatur-Erhöhung (andere Faktoren sind ebenfalls möglich). Der Schwerpunkt der Experimente und Analysen liegt auf der saprobisch-pilzlichen Lebensgemeinschaft, sowie auf entsprechenden Boden-Ökosystemfunktionen. Es ist auch erwünscht, dass konzeptionelle Beiträge zum Thema des Projektes gemacht werden, ebenso ist ein Garten-/ Feldexperiment geplant, in dem die Effekte von gradueller und abrupter Veränderung untersucht werden sollen.

We are looking for a person who brings the following to the table:

  • Interested in working in a team
  • Publications in experimental microbial community ecology, ideally with fungi (but bacteria would also be fine)
  • Experience with the logistics of experiments
  • Excellent knowledge of statistics (with R)
  • Experience with high-throughput Sequenzierung (e.g. Illumina MiSeq) and pertinent bioinformatics

Applicants must have completed Ph.D. Please send your application materials (cv, publication list, names of referees, cover letter) by 31.10.2016 as one pdf to using “ERC-experimental” in the email subject line. Start date ideally is January 2017.


Doctoral student opening: priming in fungi

(This position is now closed)

We are looking for a doctoral student to join our group to work on  a project that is part of the Collaborative Research Center “Priming and Memory of Organismic Responses to Stress” ( Our project is entitled “Priming in Fungi: towards understanding of priming at the level of the community”. The position is funded for approx. 4 years (until 30.06.2020). (German version follows below)

For this position we are looking for a candidate who will carry out the empirical work of this coupled empirical-modeling project. This experimental work will be carried out with saprobic soil fungi with a focus on temperature stress and priming. The compexity of experiments covers single-isolate studies, studies using pairs of fungi, and experiments using entire fungal communities.

Candidates need to have a completed MSc or equivalent in mycology, microbiology, ecology or related field. Candidates ideally should:

  • have excellent communication skills
  • have experience with the planning and execution of experiments
  • have excellent statistics skills (using R)
  • be interested in interacting with modelers
  • have background in microbiology and be familiar with sterile work

Send complete application materials (cv, letter of application, scans of diploma) until 01.08.2016 mentioning Rillig-sfb973 preferably in  one single pdf per E-Mail to Prof. Dr. Matthias Rillig: or alternatively by mail to:

Freie Universität Berlin
Fachbereich Biologie, Chemie, Pharmazie
Institut für Biologie
AG Ökologie
Herrn Prof. Dr. Matthias Rillig
Altensteinstr. 6
D-14195 Berlin (Dahlem)


Originaltext der Ausschreibung:

FU-Stellenanzeiger vom 11.7.2017

Fachbereich Biologie, Chemie, Pharmazie
Institut für Biologie
AG Ökologie

Wiss. Mitarbeiterin / Wiss. Mitarbeiter
mit 65%-Teilzeitbeschäftigung
befristet bis 30.06.2020
Entgeltgruppe 13 TV-L FU
Kennung: Rillig-sfb973

Diese Stelle wird angeboten innerhalb des Sonderforschungsbereiches 973, „Organismische Reaktionen auf Stress“ ( im Teilproject A1 „Priming in Fungi: towards understanding of priming at the level of the community“.


Für diese Stelle suchen wir eine/n Mitarbeiter/in der/die die empirischen Arbeiten bei einem gekoppelten experimentellen/ modellierenden Projekt durchführen kann. Die experimentellen Arbeiten sollen mit saprobiontischen Bodenpilzen ausgeführt werden, wobei Temperaturstress und -prägung im Vordergrund stehen. Die Komplexität der Experimente reicht von Untersuchungen mit Einzelisolaten, an Paaren von Pilzen in Konkurrenz, bis hin zu Experimenten mit Lebensgemeinschaften von Pilzen.


  • Abgeschlossenes wiss. Hochschulstudium (MSc, Diplom) in der Ökologie, Mykologie, Mikrobiologie oder verwandtem Gebiet


  • Exzellente Kommunikationsbefähigung, vorzugsweise in Deutsch und Englisch
  • Erfahrung in der selbstständigen Planung und Durchführung von Experimenten
  • Exzellente statistische Kenntnisse/ Datenanalyse (vorzugsweise mit R)
  • Interesse an der Kommunikation und Interaktion mit Modellierern
  • Mikrobiologiekenntnisse (idealerweise mit Pilzen), steriles Arbeiten

Bewerbungen sind mit aussagekräftigen Unterlagen bis zum 01.08.2016 unter Angabe der Kennung im Format PDF und elektronisch per E-Mail zu richten an (Herrn Prof. Dr. Matthias Rillig): oder per Post an die

Freie Universität Berlin
Fachbereich Biologie, Chemie, Pharmazie
Institut für Biologie
AG Ökologie
Herrn Prof. Dr. Matthias Rillig
Altensteinstr. 6
14195 Berlin (Dahlem)



Community coalescence news

In the last couple of days, two new papers themed around community coalescence have appeared: Calderon et al. in ISME Journal studying the effects of mixing different soil microbial communites experimentally, and Tikhonov presenting some theory underlying community coalescence in eLife.

This is quite exciting and hopefully more studies will begin to address the idea that entire microbial assemblages (and their environments) can encounter each other.

The work by Calderon et al. is in a restoration ecology context, a field where the focus has historically been on plants rather than the soil microbes. They used soil microbial communities from two different soils, which were added to a sterlized third soil; in their experiment they then added various concentrations of these soil microbial communities to resident soil microbial communities, constituting the community coalescence treatments. The results indicated that in the  less diluted, more diverse target communities  few changes occurred with the addition of the “rescue” microbial communities, most likely because of priority effects. The picture changed in the more depauperate target communities: here many OTUs from the added soil community could establish in the resulting coalescent community. Also communties from one soil had a stronger effect than from the other. Interestingly, a smaller number of species added did have a stronger effect than adding a larger number of species (when added to the most diluted target community). The authors also monitored functional consequences in terms of ammonium and nitrate concentrations in soil. Inoculation was done with soil suspensions in all cases, so aspects of habitat mixing were therefore mostly disentangled from the interaction of the communities. The type of coalescence event examined was the “addition” type, with various addition ratios/ strengths (see Rillig et al. 2015). A very nice study serving as a template for similar experimental work!

The paper by Tikhonov examined community-level competition from a theoretical perspective, directly and explicitly addressing the community coalescence concept. He showed that the ability of a species to persist through a community coalescence event is predicted by a community-level performance of its own community rather than the performance of the species itself.

Favorite sentence: “(…)we observe that community coalescence can be usefully described as an interaction between two entities, characterized macroscopically at the whole-community level”. The paper is very interesting because it highlights a community-level phenotype, placing comparatively less emphasis on the nature and identity of individual species. It is exciting to see such modeling exercises, and I hope there is more to come.

Calderon K,  Spor A, Breuil MC,  Bru D, Bizouard F, Violle C, Barnard RL,
Philippot L. (2016). The ISME Journal; doi:10.1038/ismej.2016.86

Tikhonov M. (2016). Community-level cohesion without cooperation. eLife;
doi: 10.7554/eLife.15747

Recruiting 3 postdocs: biodiversity research (note different deadlines)

The Berlin-Brandenburg Institute for Advanced Biodiversity Research (BBIB, with its member institutions has formed a consortium to implement a major new interdisciplinary research initiative, the “Bridging in Biodiversity Science” ( project funded by the Federal Ministry of Research and Education (BMBF).

Within this project, several postitions (10 doctoral students and 16 postdocs) will be recruited across all member institutions and work packages. All positions are highly collaborative in nature, and incumbents are expected to work with multiple PIs.

At Freie Universität Berlin, the following 3 postdoc positions are announced, based in the Rillig lab. Deadlines for applications vary (see below). Please send all application materials as one pdf per email to Matthias Rillig (, indicating in the subject line the position code (e.g., “Rillig-empirical”). All postdocs are approx. 3-year E13 100% (end date 28.2.2019).

1) Postdoc Aboveground-belowground trait interactions (Rillig-empirical) Now closed

We are looking for a person to lead empirical work on a large greenhouse experiment on aboveground/ belowground trait interactions. The candidate will be responsible for set-up, logistics, and harvest of this experiment, and will work with other team members. The postdoc will oversee root trait measurements. The postdoc will also be carrying out data analyses, especially for the metabolomics data and molecular microbial data. The postdoc will further be chiefly responsible for collecting all the high-throughput microbial data. A completed doctoral degree in ecology or related areas is required, and we look for the following skills:

  • Excellent communication skills, preferably in English and German
  • Publications in trait-based ecology (ideally of fungi) and a solid conceptual background in this field
  • Experience with the logistics of greenhouse experiments and plant-soil interactions
  • Excellent statistical skills (preferably using R)
  • Background in high-throughput sequencing a plus

2) Postdoc Synthesis (Rillig-synthesis) deadline Feb 22, 2016; now closed

The postdoc will be chiefly responsible for carrying out a major synthesis/ conceptual task on “Synthesis of trait-based approaches and plant-soil interactions in the context of rapid transitions”, coordinating the efforts within the BIBS consortium (work package 4) and also with the iDiv scientists. The postdoc will make use of data as they are becoming available in empirical parts of the project, but will also include data from data bases such as TRY and others, and will additionally use data from other sources, as available. The postdoc will carry out data synthesis, including but not limited to meta-analytical techniques. The postdoc will also help with the production of a brochure intended for land managers and policy makers on this theme (see above). Applicants need to have a completed doctoral degree in Ecology or related fields, and we are looking for the following skills:

  • Excellent communication skills and experience with working in teams
  • Background in data analysis in synthesis, including meta-analysis or data re-analysis
  • Excellent statistical skills (preferably using R)
  • Interest in developing concepts in ecology
  • Background in trait-based approaches a plus

3) Postdoc Database management/ data-driven synthesis (Rillig-data) – now closed

This postdoc will be mainly responsible for the central data management issues of the entire BIBS project (all work packages). The postdoc will provide access to data bases, and will be involved in all BIBS work packages as data support. The postdoc will coordinate with elements of established data infrastructure located at member institutions of BIBS project partners. The candidate will beyond this also be free to engage in data-driven ecological synthesis, re-analysis and concepts related to the general BIBS-goals of bridging in biodiversity research. Completed doctorate in ecology, biodiversity, bioinformatics, or related field is required, and we are looking for the following skills:

  • Excellent communication skills and experience with working in teams
  • Background in data analysis and synthesis
  • Experience with or strong interest in (ecological) database management, and with helping people in this task
  • Excellent statistical skills (preferably using R)
  • Interest in developing concepts in ecology a plus


Doctoral scholarship opportunity (ecology, plant-soil-microbe, arbuscular mycorrhiza, microbiome engineering)

There is a scholarship opportunity for students from abroad to join the Rillig lab for work on the general topic: Ecology in agroecosystems, mycorrhiza, plant-fungal soil interactions. We will also consider applications that deal with microbiome engineering in an agroecosystem context.

Funding comes from the DAAD Graduate School Scholarship Program. The receiving doctoral program at Freie Universität is ‘Plant Sciences’.

Starting date is October 2016; the deadline for applications is December 15, 2015. Please contact Matthias Rillig for discussion of potential topics.

The full announcement, eligibility criteria, and decription of materials to submit is located here. This opportunity is now closed.