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4-year PhD scholarship in Physiological Ecology

4-year PhD scholarship in Physiological Ecology

The thermoregulation - oxidative stress nexus as driver for avian senescence
Institute of Environmental Sciences, Jagiellonian University, Cracow, Poland

We are seeking a highly motivated PhD student with interest in animal experimental biology and a general interest in avian physiology for our NCN funded project „The effect of aging on body temperature dependent oxidative stress: the burden of heterothermy”. The experimental work on captive zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata) will be performed at Jagiellonian University.

Duration: 4 years

Starting Date: October 2022


  1. MSc in life science (biology, ecology, evolution, zoology or related)
  2. interest physiological ecology and animal metabolism
  3. experience, or at least interest in experimental work with birds
  4. analytical thinking, creativity, and high motivation in learning new methods
  5. excitement to perform research in an international team
  6. good level of spoken and written English

Project in brief:

As endotherms, mammals and birds have evolved the capacity to thermoregulate, an evolutionary achievement with profound impact on biology and ecology. Endothermy, however, does not necessarily entail a constant body temperature throughout a day, a year or a life time. Instead, many mammals are known to hibernate seasonally or enter torpor, reducing their body temperature by a few °C to several tens of °C below the normothermic level. Birds are known to also become torpid or and reduce body temperature during the night by rather a few °C with some exceptions of up to two tens of °C. These on first sight small temperature drops may, however, have profound effects on enzymatic activity. The rate of biochemical reactions in general, and enzymatic reactions in particular are highly temperature dependent, which also applies to enzymes that act as antioxidants against free radicals. They protect against the negative effects of oxidative stress through free radical scavenging and if this protective enzymatic action is reduced in its rate, free radicals may remain unchecked and lead to oxidative damage of biomolecules. Such oxidative damage risks functional integrity of biomolecules and is currently one of the most frequently forwarded driver of aging. Our research is designed to understand how regulation of body temperature may be hampered by increasing age and how this impaired thermoregulatory capability may lead to increased oxidative stress when animals grow old.

While it is well established for mammals, including us humans, that body temperature and the capacity to thermoregulate declines with increasing age, such data are virtually absent for birds, and in addition were never linked to oxidative stress. Our research project will provide thorough understanding how age in the context of senescence influences thermoregulation in birds. The second goal of our research is then to relate the thermogenic capacity of birds of different age to oxidative stress to test the hypothesis that body temperature is related to the rate of oxidative damage.

Please submit for application in a single pdf by 20th of June 2022 via e-mail ( containing:

  1. Letter of motivation
  2. CV
  3. certificates
  4. Contact details for two scientists who can provide reference letters

Students must be accepted as PhD student at Institute of Environmental Sciences, UJ (please see details for application process at Shortly, the registration for the Doctoral School ends at 27th  June 2022. Entry exam will be between 04th and 8th July 2022. Entries to the Doctoral School: 22nd – 25th August 2022. One needs to have Msc degree before entry to the Doctoral School.

For further information do not hesitate and contact Ulf Bauchinger (