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Two PhD fellowships in theoretical ecology

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PHD FELLOWSHIP 1 : COMMUNITY STABILITY AND TURNOVER IN CHANGING
ENVIRONMENTS

A 3-year PhD fellowship is available at the Centre for Biodiversity Theory and Modelling, based at the Theoretical and Experimental Ecology Station in Moulis, France. Research at the Centre focuses on the development of unifying theories and predictive models of biodiversity changes and their ecological, evolutionary, and societal causes and consequences.

PROJECT DESCRIPTION

One of the oldest unsolved questions in ecology is the degree to which ecological communities and ecosystems are integrated entities rather than loose collections of species or individuals. The debate dates back to the early days of ecology, when Clements developed the view that plant communities are superorganisms, while Gleason claimed that they are mere statistical associations of independent individuals. Although empirical evidence suggests that reality lies somewhere between these two extremes, we do not have solid theory to reconcile the two opposite views. This debate does not only have an academic interest, it also has profound implications for understanding and predicting how communities and ecosystems respond to environmental changes in space, time, or both.
The superorganismic view predicts that communities should change abruptly and collectively along environmental gradients, while the individualistic view predicts that they should change smoothly as species replace each other gradually and independently along environmental gradients. Thus, this debate is relevant to predicting the response of communities and ecosystems to current climate change and other anthropogenic stressors.

The successful PhD candidate will develop dynamical models of ecological communities to examine how the pattern and strength of species interactions shape the composition, functioning and stability of communities along spatial and temporal environmental gradients. The goal will be to identify the conditions under which smooth or abrupt changes in community composition, functioning or stability occur in space and in time. Different types of communities (competitive, mutualistic, predator-prey,…) will be considered. We expect that the conditions conducive to abrupt changes along spatial gradients will also yield abrupt changes under temporal environmental changes. Empirical data available from the literature will then be used to identify ecosystems that show abrupt changes in space and that might show abrupt changes under future global change. Analysis of the models is expected to be
mostly numerical using computer simulations, although some mathematical analysis would be a plus if feasible.

The project will be supervised by Michel Loreau, in collaboration with Marten Scheffer at Wageningen University, Netherlands.
The starting date should be comprised between September 1 and December
31, 2016
.

REQUIREMENTS

We seek a highly motivated and creative individual with a background in ecology, a training or experience in mathematical modelling, and a good command of the English language.

To apply, email a letter of application, a CV, and the names and email addresses of two referees to Michel Loreau via Dalila Booth with the reference ML-CST. Review ofapplications will start immediately until the position is filled.

PHD FELLOWSHIP 2 : GENERAL ECOSYSTEM MODELS UNDER CLIMATE CHANGE SCENARIOS AND THEIR CONSEQUENCES ON SPECIES INTERACTIONS, ECOSYSTEM PRODUCTIVITY AND STABILITY

A 3-year PhD fellowship is available in the Ecological Networks and Global Change group, based at the Theoretical and Experimental Ecology Station in Moulis, France. Research in the group focuses on developing theories and experimental manipulations on the effects of different components of global change on biodiversity, network structure and dynamics, and ecosystem functioning.

PROJECT DESCRIPTION

Environmental change affects ecosystems across spatial scales. Ongoing climate change, in particular, is a global phenomenon whose effects pervade all biomes, from the tropics to the poles. Different biomes, however, are affected at different rates of change, and the characteristics of the local ecosystems, in particular species
interactions, can ameliorate or exacerbate the ecological consequences of climate change. Thus, one of the greatest challenges of biodiversity and climate change research is to develop global models of biodiversity change that allow for local differences in both the stressors (e.g., mean temperature, temperature variability) and local processes (e.g., biotic interactions) that modulate the effects of environmental change.
The general objective of this project is twofold : to gain mechanistic insights into how changes in species interactions (e.g., via changes in specialization) modify species distribution patterns across spatial scales, and ultimately how they affect diversity-productivity and diversity-stability relationships ; to forecast climate change
effects on ecosystems worldwide using a suite of warming scenarios.

The successful PhD candidate will develop general ecosystem models coupled with different climate change scenarios. We envision to use the DARWIN model, which we have already used in the past (Vallina et al. 2014, Nature Communications 5 : 4299). This model simulates the physical conditions of the global ocean coupled with the ecological traits of species from different trophic levels. We will also contemplate the
possibility of using alternative global biodiversity models, such as the Madingley model for terrestrial and marine systems. The DARWIN and Madingley models can be highly complementary as they differ in the resolution they provide for lower and higher trophic levels. We expect model analysis to be mostly numerical.

The project will be supervised by Jose M. Montoya [5] and Michel Loreau. The starting date should be comprised between September 1 and December 31, 2016.

REQUIREMENTS

We seek a highly motivated and creative individual with a background in ecology, a training or experience in mathematical modelling and/or computer sciences, and a good command of the English language.

To apply, email a letter of application, a CV, and the names and email addresses of two referees to Jose Montoya via Dalila Booth with the reference JM-GEM. Review of applications will start immediately until the position is filled.