PhD position

PhD Studentship in tardigrade phylogeography at the Jagiellonian University (Kraków, Poland, EU)

Are you interested in tardigrades and other small invertebrates?

Do you want to know how they are distributed, and which factors lead their distribution patterns?

Do you want to feel the excitement of testing biogeographical questions using a novel and adventurous approach?

Please feel welcome to apply for a PhD studentship in our group, to develop a fascinating research project in which we will use environmental DNA to study the distribution patterns of tardigrades and other microinvertebrates, and the factors that shape them.

Don’t be afraid of applying! You may be the person we are looking for!


Employment duration

This is a 4-year, full time PhD position that is expected to start on 01.10.2023 and end on 30.09.2027.



The guaranteed tax-free stipend is 6 850 PLN/month. If you choose to lead a typical PhD student life in Kraków, you will spend around 3 000 PLN/month, thus the guaranteed stipend assures a good standard of life and allows to save some money for the future.


PhD programme and thesis

The PhD programme in Biology is run entirely in English and it includes some obligatory and facultative classes. The programme is open to all nationalities and there are no tuition fees.

The PhD studentship will take four years: it will commence on the 1st October 2023 and the student is required to submit the PhD thesis by the 30th September 2027. The viva should take place by the end of 2027. The PhD thesis is planned to be in a form of a series of 3–5 research papers published in high rank journals.



Formal: An MSc diploma (or an equivalent that allows to enter a PhD course) in biology or in a related field, already in possession or to be obtained no later than on the 15th July 2023.

Personal: I am looking for an enthusiastic, motivated and hardworking person who is not afraid to learn new things and skills, someone who gets along with people and is happy to work in a team but is also able to operate independently, without a constant supervision. A strong interest in evolutionary biology, with emphasis on phylogeny, biogeography and taxonomy is a must, as is fluency in English (especially in writing) and fondness for tardigrades. Interest and experience in bioinformatics is strongly advantageous. Experience with handling microscopic animals is desirable.


Recruitment procedure

The recruitment procedure is a two-step process. In the first step, one candidate will be preselected and then they will be given the opportunity to apply for a PhD position at the Jagiellonian University.

Step I: To enter the first step of the recruitment, please download the Application Form, fill it, and send it with all specified information and attachments to by the 7th May 2023 (please put “PhD application” in the subject line; please try to apply as soon as possible rather than wait until the deadline – this will help us to select candidates for project interviews). Based on applications and references, several top candidates will be chosen for project interviews. These online interviews will take place in mid May 2023. You must pass this first step to be eligible to apply for the second step of recruitment (described below).

Step II: The best candidates selected in the first step will be then given help and advice to prepare for the official university entrance interviews. Interviews will take place from the 3rd to the 7th July 2023. Online interviews for international candidates are possible. University interviews focus on the project (you should make a very short presentation) and related topics, including reading and interpretating abstracts of scientific papers.


Brief summary of the project

We are currently living in an era of drastic environmental changes. The climate is getting more extreme, human activity fragments and disturbs the ecosystems, numerous taxa and populations are becoming extinct, and many other organisms are being displaced or see their lifestyles changed. In this context, it is important to have a clear and complete understanding of these three questions:

  1. How are organisms distributed? Which factors determine that a taxon is present in one place but not in another? Is the presence of a taxon in a locality permanent or accidental?
  2. How did they reach their current distribution patterns? What historic processes determined the presence of a taxon in a particular area?
  3. How are the ongoing changes going to affect them? How will their distribution change in the future? How resilient are the different communities to different environmental changes?
Questions to be addressed in the project

Knowing the answers to these questions is important for designing new strategies for a better management of the ecosystems and to minimize their disruption by human activity, and may be essential for the survival of singular taxa and even full communities.

While these questions have been profusely studied in macroscopic animals and ecosystems, there is still a lot to be understood about them on microscopic organisms. Microinvertebrates are one of the most ecologically important groups of animals and have been proposed as reliable groups of bioindicators to assess the status of ecosystems. They include representatives of numerous phyla, such as arthropods, nematodes, rotifers, etc. Microinvertebrates constitute an essential link in the trophic chain and are responsible for a great part of the recycling of nutrients and biomass creation in many diverse environments. While a better integration of these organisms in ecological studies have been proposed, there is striking scarcity of works that deal with ecological questions of microinvertebrates, and almost none in determinate groups of these taxa.

One of the most famous of these groups of microinvertebrates are the Tardigrada, also called “water bears” or “moss piglets”, a phylum closely related to arthropods inhabiting diverse environments all around the Earth. They are well-known due to their ability to enter cryptobiosis and withstand any extreme condition. As many other microinvertebrates, it was assumed that tardigrade taxa were ubiquitous, as long as the environmental conditions were suitable (the so called “Everything is Everywhere hypothesis), but recent studies have started to challenge this view, unveiling outstanding geographic patterns of distribution. Some of these studies, carried out in our lab, revealed that the geographical structure of tardigrade populations much higher than it was expected, which opens the way for the design of this project, which will let us know how the populations of tardigrades, and other associated microinvertebrate taxa, are structured in small geographic scales. Currently, little is known about the distribution patterns of microinvertebrates at small (1-10km) and medium (100-1000 km) scales. This project aims to use the latest molecular techniques based on environmental DNA to shed light on these issues.



The successful candidate will be involved in the gathering of moss samples, eDNA and DNA extraction, amplification and multilocus sequencing (NGS), bioinformatic processing of the obtained sequences, extraction of microinvertebrates, slide preparation, and identification under microscope. The student will also analyse data and prepare drafts of manuscripts, and will be involved in the promotion of results at seminars and conferences.

Simplified workflow of the project, including the activities in which the PhD student will be involved



The PhD studentship presents a great opportunity to research the phylogeographic patterns of microinvertebrates at small and medium scales, taking a novel approach using environmental DNA to unveil the complete structure of microinvertebrate communities in each locality. Although this is the central project aim, the system provides great potential for a dedicated student to explore their own ideas on other biological or evolutionary questions that may arise during the research and collaborate with other members of the team on their experiments.An ambitious PhD student will be encouraged and supported with additional stipend and research grant applications. Summer schools on relevant subjects can funded from the project if the student is interested in particular topics and specialised analytical methods that can be useful in their thesis. Last but not least, a dedicated student has a great chance to build a proper publication record that will help them to get a PostDoc position in the future (the last students who did their PhDs in the team finished with 20-40 papers in JCR-indexed journals, Hirsch indices of 11-14 and numerous additional stipends and awards).



Dr. Alejandro López-López is a researcher interested in the patterns that influence the evolution and distribution of organisms. He studied Biology and Biodiversity Management, and did a PhD, at the University of Murcia (Spain). Afterwards, he had postdoctoral positions at the Natural History Museum of London (2016) and the University of Murcia (2018-2020), and was Associate Professor at the Miguel Hernández University (2017-2020), and later was hired as postdoctoral researcher at the Jagiellonian University (2020-), where he joined Łukasz Michalczyk’s lab to study the biogeographic patterns and phylogeny of tardigrades. He was recently awarded a grant to study the phylogeographic patterns of microinvertebrates using environmental DNA.

Dr. Łukasz Michalczyk is an evolutionary biologist who happens to love tardigrades. He did his MSc at the Jagiellonian University (Kraków, Poland), then a PhD (2009) and a PostDoc at the University of East Anglia (Norwich, UK), followed by a Fellowship at the University of Western Australia (Perth, Australia). Currently, he holds a permanent position of an Associate Professor at the Jagiellonian, where he leads a dynamically developing group of young researchers. He published over a hundred research papers in international journals, including top periodicals such as Science and Nature (GoogleScholar profile). He has also been a Principal Investigator in projects concerning some of the key areas of evolutionary biology inquiry such as sexual selection, inbreeding, phenotypic plasticity, and phylogeny.



Łukasz Michalczyk’s team is considered as one of the leading research groups studying tardigrades. Our team currently comprises ten members, including a wonderful Lab Manager, one PhD student and several dedicated MSc and undergraduate students who collaborate with our projects (details about the team on ResearchGate). Recently, several previous students finished their PhDs with a track records of research papers and numerous stipends and are starting their shining careers in reference institutions. We are also looking to enlarge the team in the near future.

One of the most recent group photos. Edited by Ł. Michalczyk



Our lab is located in the modern building of the Institute of Zoology and Biomedical Research (part of the Faculty of Biology). The lab is fully equipped with the state-of-the-art equipment, including high class phase and differential interference contrast microscope, numerous stereomicroscopes, a DNA lab, and incubators for tardigrade culturing. There is an SEM lab and DNA sequencing facilities on the campus (both Sanger and NGS). Our lab has the largest collection of tardigrade strains in the world. Our Institute also owns a Mountain Station in the Gorce Mts., where we go every summer and winter for a short seminar and team integration.



Jagiellonian University, founded in 1364, not only is the oldest Polish University but it is also one of the oldest universities in the world. Together with the Warsaw University, it is ranked as the top university in Poland. Our Institute is located in the new university campus in the Ruczaj district, which is surrounded by meadows and lies in the vicinity of the Vistula river. The campus is conveniently communicated with the city centre (20 min by tram). Famous Jagiellonian alumni include the astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus and Nobel Laureate Wisława Szymborska.



Kraków is one of the oldest Polish cities and it is also considered as one of the most beautiful in the country. With nearly 200 000 students studying at 20 universities and academies, it is a vibrant place with many pubs, clubs and other student attractions. Kraków is located in the south of Poland, thus gorgeous Tatra Mts., Pieniny Mts., Gorce Mts., and other mountain ranges are only two hours away by coach.

Kraków seen from the Krakus Mound. Photo taken by Alejandro López-López