Postdoctoral Positions Available: University of Hawaii

Published by Cori VanGalder on

Postdoctoral Positions Available: University of Hawaii

Two new postdoctoral positions in the Hynson ( and the Medeiros ( Labs at the University of Hawaii at Manoa to work on a recently funded NSF Rules of Life project “MIM: Using Machine Learning and a Model Watershed to Understand how Microbes Govern Food Web Architecture and Efficiency”.

We are looking for applicants with expertise in one or more of the listed areas:

  • Aquatic food web ecology with experience setting up manipulative experiments
  • Fungal biology/ecology including field and/or lab-based studies
  • Microbial ecology, with experience generating and analyzing high throughput amplicon sequencing data.

Potential projects will be developed in collaboration with the incumbent postdoctoral researchers, but could include manipulative and observational experimental designs to understand how: 1) microbiomes organize among trophic levels, and 2) how the structure and composition of the microbiome impact food chain efficiency and food web complexity. The projects will focus on the relatively simple aquatic food webs that occur in water-filled axials of terrestrial, tank bromeliads on O‘ahu, Hawai‘i. Researchers will be expected to employ appropriate molecular tools and advanced statistical methods to resolve the diversity of host-associated and free-living microbiomes, and how it relates to trophic interactions.

Minimum qualifications include:

  • A PhD in Biology, Ecology or a related scientific discipline
  • Research experience in one or more of the following fields: food web ecology, microbiome science, microbial ecology, fungal biology
  • Evidence of scientific productivity in the form of peer-reviewed publications
  • Strong science writing and communication skills
  • Ability to work independently as well as a productive member of a team, including mentoring experience

The postdocs will be expected to carry out a portion of the work outlined in NSF-Rules of Life project, but will also have the option of developing studies within their specific areas of interest as they relate to microbiome studies. This includes potential collaborations with the Center for Microbiome Analysis through Island Knowledge and Investigation (C-MĀIKI; Pay is commensurate with experience, start date is somewhat flexible, and appointment is for one year with the possibility to extend for an additional 1-2 years provided acceptable progress.

Interested parties should email the following to Matthew Medeiros ( and Nicole Hynson (

  • A brief cover letter outlining your background relevant to the project and how you meet the minimum qualifications.
  • A current CV with a list of 3 potential references and their contact info.

Project Synopsis:

Rules that govern food web dynamics, which describe how energy is transferred among different living organisms, are among the most universal laws of nature. Consumption up a food-chain is an inherently inefficient process that leads to significant and predictable losses through waste and respiration. This rule of life can be leveraged to model how biological diversity will respond to phenomena such as sudden changes in the environment or species extinctions, and is an important constraint in food production. Until now, food web research has largely focused on the interactions among plants and animals, however, microbes living in and on larger organisms play essential roles in their health, rates of reproduction, and ability to digest food. This project will examine how symbiotic microbes govern the efficiency of food webs, and how aspects of food webs, in turn, determine the composition of symbiotic microbes. The predictive insight gained from this research may make it possible to manipulate the composition of microbes to create more efficient food webs that can potentially guide restoration of degraded habitats, capture carbon, and increase yield in agriculture, aquaculture and biofuels systems. In addition, workforce development and outreach to under-represented groups including native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, will be performed. Postdoctoral researchers, graduate students and undergraduates will be trained in microbiome science through research experiences and class modules.

This project addresses the hypothesis that canonical laws governing the transfer of energy among trophic levels of food webs both constrain, and are constrained by the composition and function of microbiomes. Leveraging a model Hawaiian watershed system, this project aims to understand how host-associated microbiomes govern food chain efficiency and how, in turn, trophic position within a food web affects the microbiome. The project will develop transfer learning approaches based on machine-learning tools trained on higher-feature datasets (such as the Earth Microbiome Project) to enable robust predictions of the interaction between food chain length, trophic position and microbiome diversity. Two tractable experimental systems will be used to explore these predictions. The first is a simple four-tiered bromeliad food web mesocosm where the number and of trophic levels is controlled. The second consists of a three-tiered mosquito microcosm in which all microbial symbionts are isolated and manipulated. Associated genomic data will enable a mechanistic understanding of how microbiomes influence food web efficiency and function by altering metabolic capacity of hosts. In summary, this project will employ food web theory to explain and predict the interactions between the microbiome, the host, and the environment.

The University of Hawaii is an equal opportunity/affirmative action institution and is committed to a policy of nondiscrimination on the basis of race, sex, gender identity and expression, age, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, citizenship, disability, genetic information, marital status, breastfeeding, income assignment for child support, arrest and court record (except as permissible under State law), sexual orientation, domestic or sexual violence victim status, national guard absence, or status as a covered veteran.

Categories: Job Board