PhD student position in Caribbean Biogeography and Systematics at Memorial University of Newfoundland-Canada

I am seeking a motivated PhD student to test the role of different hypotheses (e.g. Cenozoic vicariance, over-water dispersal, the GAARlandia colonization route, in situ speciation) on the evolution and assembly of Caribbean flora. The Caribbean is important to conserve because it is one of the world’s top five biodiversity hotspots. We will compile divergence times and ancestral areas of Caribbean endemic plant lineages from the literature or from our own analyses (dated phylogenetic trees and biogeographic modeling). With these data we will estimate colonization and speciation rates through time. We hypothesize that different speciation rates through time could explain the absence of a time-for-speciation effect in the Caribbean as we previously demonstrated, and a decreased colonization rate into the Caribbean because islands will reach carrying capacity with time. In addition, the systematics of the genus Copernicia (Arecaceae), a radiation of 21 palm species mostly endemic to Cuba, will be conducted using Genotyping-by-Sequencing (GBS). The student will conduct fieldwork in Cuba. We expect to find phylogenetic splits reflecting the history of fragmentation and rejoining of Cuban paleo-archipelagos, and between Cuba and Hispaniola. Other research questions of interest to the student are welcome. The PhD student will work under the mentorship of Dr. Julissa Roncal at MUN, and will collaborate with Raul Verdecia from las Tunas University in Cuba for the systematics of Copernicia.

Student’s qualifications:

  • A MS degree in a related discipline (e.g. biology, botany, systematics, ecology, molecular biology, bioinformatics)
  • Experience in organismic botany, phylogenetics and/or population genetics analyses, biogeographic modeling, and bioinformatics is highly desirable.
  • Excellent writing, analytical, organization and communication skills. Attention to detail.
  • Written and oral proficiency in English is mandatory for international students. TOEFL or IELTS test required for admission to the university, but not the GRE tests.

Position characteristics:

Project start date is September 2022 or January 2023. The PhD program comprises four years with an annual stipend of CAD$ 22,500 and the possibility to obtain the Dean’s Doctoral Award of CAD$5,000 per year. The student is expected to teach 60 hours during the fall and winter semesters (Sept through April) but not in the spring. The department of Biology at Memorial University has 25 faculty members and 74 graduate students. Memorial University is Atlantic Canada’s largest university offering a multicultural environment. Screening will begin immediately and will continue until the position is filled. Position is funded by an NSERC Discovery Grant, but as part of the student’s training I encourage every student to apply for grants and awards.

How to apply:

Interested applicants should send their CV, a one-page statement of research interests and career goals, transcripts, and contact information of 3 references (who have agreed to be contacted) in a single pdf or word file to Dr. Julissa Roncal at Email: before applying formally to MUN. For more information on the research group visit: For instructions on how to apply to Memorial’s graduate program visit:

Information on the Biology department can be found: