Ledig stilling: PhD Candidate: “Conserving the Genetic Biodiversity of Maize in Mexico: Understanding a complex problem and developing participatory solutions”


GenØk Centre for Biosafety is looking for a PhD candidate to work on the project “Conserving the Genetic Biodiversity of Maize in Mexico: Understanding a complex problem and developing participatory solutions”.

Applicants must hold a master’s degree or equivalent and be qualified for PhD study in Norway. Enrollment for the degree will be at UiT The Arctic University of Norway while the candidate will work within the Society, Ecology and Ethics Department at GenØk Centre for Biosafety. The PhD position is for 3 years, with anticipated commencement on September 1st 2014.

Project description

The conservation of genetic biodiversity in important crop plants, such as maize, is absolutely crucial for food security and the resilience of agricultural systems in the face of change. Currently there are two main approaches to the conservation of crop genetic biodiversity – in situ approaches that seek to conserve biodiversity on farms and through ongoing cultivation of a range of varieties, and ex situ approaches in which seeds of different varieties are preserved in gene banks for future use. Norway currently administers the largest international seed bank – the Svalbard seed vault – which is meant to serve as insurance in the face of disasters. It has, however, been emphasized that it is crucial that such ex situ approaches as the Svalbard seed vault need to be supplementary to, not in place of, in situ approaches that actively maintain crop genetic biodiversity through active on farm cultivation, management and use. This project specifically seeks to a) understand the challenges facing in situ genetic biodiversity conservation, b) advance solutions to these challenges through participatory research with local actors and c) clarify how in situ and ex situ approaches can be combined for maximum benefit. To perform this research, the project adopts a focus on maize and will work with in situ biodiversity conservation in its centre of origin and diversity, Mexico.

The general research question framing the issues of interest in this project is:

What are the current challenges for the conservation of maize genetic biodiversity in its centre of origin, Mexico, and how can local and global solutions be advanced?

The specific research questions are:

What are the environmental, economic and sociocultural aspects influencing the conservation of genetic biodiversity in maize landraces in their centre of origin, Mexico?

How are women specifically implicated in the challenges and solutions to the conservation of maize landraces and what policies can best advance their positions and efforts?

What is the relationship between local in situ (on farm) solutions to the conservation of crop genetic biodiversity and global ex situ (gene bank) solutions and how could this relationship be improved?

The PhD student will primarily work on research questions 1 & 2, with extensive fieldwork required in the agricultural communities of Oaxaca Mexico. The project is transdisciplinary in nature and therefore the PhD student will need to employ participatory research methods and work actively with local women farmers and community authorities, facilitating their engagement in the project as key knowledge holders and actors with expertise.

Qualification requirements

The PhD position is for a fixed term, with the objective of completion of research training to the level of a doctoral degree. The programme period starts upon commencement of the position. The PhD Candidate shall participate in the university’s organized research training, and the PhD project shall be completed during the period of employment. The regulations for the degree of Philosophiae Doctor (PhD) are available at the following address: http://uit.no/Content/327454/Ph%20d%20-forskrift%202012%20-%20engelsk.pdf

Applicants must be qualified to undertake PhD studies in Norway. This requires that the candidate hold either a Master’s degree of 300 credits or a Master’s degree of 120 credits combined with a Bachelor’s degree of 180 credits. Experience-based Master’s of 120 credits may also provide a basis for admission. Additionally, the Masters degree must have attained a grade of B or higher to be eligible for entry into a PhD program. Finally, the applicant must be able to document proficiency in English equivalent to Norwegian Higher Education Entrance Qualification.

Since the project is transdisciplinary in nature, applicants for the PhD position could come from a range of relevant fields, including but not limited to: genetics, agronomy, ecology, ecological economics, science & technology studies, sociology, environmental or natural resource management.

Working conditions

PhD candidates in Norway are normally remunerated at the State wage scale code 1017. As part of their employment, the PhD candidate will join GenØk’s pension plan, which although undergoing some changes, currently involves a deposit of 2%.

Questions concerning the organisation of the working environment, such as the physical state of the place of employment, health service, possibility for flexible working hours, part time, etc., as well as questions about the PhD programme may be directed to the contact person given below. GenØk has HR policy objectives that emphasize diversity, and therefore encourages qualified applicants to apply regardless of their gender, functional ability and national or ethnic background. GenØk is an IW (Inclusive Workplace) enterprise, and will therefore emphasize making the necessary adaptations to the working conditions for employees with reduced functional ability.


The applicants will be assessed by an expert committee.

All applicants will need to meet the basic requirements for entry into PhD programs in Norway (described above) and speak Spanish fluently to be considered for the position. Following that, weight will be given to the relevance of the applicant’s academic background, grades received in previous degrees, competence in spoken and written English and experience relevant for the project.

Additional weight will also be given to the following highly desirable criteria: a solid understanding of the science of genetics, knowledge of maize cultivation systems, knowledge of issues surrounding contamination with genetically modified organisms; training or experience working in participatory research and resource management, existing connections with relevant community and agricultural organisations in Mexico.

Emphasis will also be attached to the applicant’s ability to integrate well within the existing research group in Tromsø.


The application must be submitted electronically before June 6th via Jobbnorge. The applications should be written in English and include:

– A one page statement of why you are interested in the position and how your background, interests and/or expertise meet the requirements and will be beneficial for the project

– A curriculum vitae

– An example of academic writing (e.g. a published article, a coursework essay, or copy of the Masters thesis)

In addition, by the application deadline of June 6th, a paper copy of the following documents should also be sent to GenØk:

Certified copies of:

– diploma and transcript from your Bachelor’s degree or equivalent

– diploma and transcript from your Master’s degree or equivalent

– diploma supplement for completed degrees

– documentation of English language proficiency (see http://www.nokut.no/en/Facts-and-statistics/Surveys-and-databases/GSU-list/)

– two letters of reference

– list of published works and a description of these

– author(s), the work’s title

– for articles: the journal’s name and volume, the first and last page of the article, year of publication

– for other publications: publisher, printer, year of publication, number of pages

These supporting documents must be in English or a Scandinavian language and should be sent directly to:

PhD Position: Conserving Genetic Biodiversity Project, GenØk – Centre for Biosafety, Forskningsparken, PB 6418, 9294 Tromsø, Norway

For further information about the position, please contact Dr Fern Wickson

Application deadline: June 6th 2014

email: fern.wickson@genok.no telephone +47 77623137.

Søk stillingen