Postdoc: Modelling food web architectures under climate change


Starting date: July-August 2016
Duration: 36 months
Stipend: EUR 1495 per month (free of tax) plus social security.
Other subsidies: EUR 750 per year to participate in scientific meetings and conferences, EUR 300-600 for inbound and outbound travelling.

Can we predict the effects of climate changes on biodiversity? Existing models are based on several weak assumptions, generally failing to account for complex interdependencies between species. Detailed multi-species models are mathematically intractable and prone to chaotic dynamics whereby small changes in parameterisation can cause massive changes in predictions. For example, modelling species distributions against biotic and abiotic constraints has proven useful in systems with two species interacting with one another, but for systems with many interacting species the problem is currently beyond capacity. An alternative is to model assemblages of species assuming they have collective behaviour. Evidence exist that community responses do exist once the unit of observation is functional groups rather than species. The successful postdoctoral research applicant will endeavour to develop models of food web architectures using published macroecological data sets and experimentally compiled data.

Some key papers for the project

  • Araújo, M.B. & Rozenfeld, A. 2014. The geographic scaling of biotic interactions. Ecography. 37: 406-415.
  • Araújo, M.B., Rozenfeld, R., Rahbek, C. & Marquet, P.A. 2011. Using species coexistence networks to assess the impacts of climate change. Ecography. 34: 897-908.
  • Araújo, M.B. & Luoto, M. 2017. The importance of biotic interactions for modelling species distributions under climate change. Global Ecology and Biogeography. 16: 743-753.
  • Livingston, G., Matias, M., et al. 2012. Competition-colonization dynamics in experimental bacterial metacommunities. Nat Commun. 3: 1234.
  • Cazelles, K., Araújo, M.B., Mouquet, N., Gravel, D. 2016. Theory for species co-occurrence in interaction networks. Theoretical Ecology. 9: 39-48.
  • Mendoza, M., Janis, C. & Palmqvist, P. 2005. Ecological patterns in the trophic-size structure of large mammal communities: a ‘taxon-free’characterization. Evolutionary Ecology Research. 7: 505-530.
  • Morales-Castilla, I., Matias, M.G., Gravel, D. & Araújo, M.B. 2015. Inferring biotic interactions from proxies. Trends in Ecology and Evolution. 30: 347–356.
  • Moore, J.C. & Ruiter, P.C. 2012. Energetic food webs: An analysis of real and model ecosystems. Oxford Series in Ecology and Evolution.

Research environment:
The postdoc will be associated with Miguel Araújo Lab, while being physically located at the CIBIO-UE. The successful candidate will work in the context of a collaboration involving a cohort of international partners including Prof. Thomas Gilbert (University of Copenhagen), Prof. Dominique Gravel (University of Quebec), Prof. Guy Woodward (Imperial College London), Dr. Miguel Matias (Imperial College London & CIBIO), Dr. David Vieites (CSIC), and Dr. Alejandro Rozenfeld (CONYCET) amongst others.

Required background and skills:
Two alternative profiles are acceptable for this post:

Profile 1 – PhD in Mathematics or Physics. Solid skills in modelling of dynamic processes, ideally food webs or any network-related dynamic. Good programming skills are a must.

Profile 2 - PhD in Biology, Ecology, or related fields. Solid background in theoretical ecology with proven experience with environmental modelling, numerical analysis of ecological data, and /or macroecology. Good programming skills are a must.

Language: English as a first or second language is required.

Publication record: Candidates are expected to have a good publication record in internationally refereed journals.

Send your application by email to Natália Melo (“cibioue” AT “uevora” dot “pt”) before the 3th of July 2016. The application must include a cover letter (in English) explaining why you think you are an adequate candidate for the post, a short CV (please no more than 5 pages), external links to five of your most relevant papers, and the names and contacts of two academics that can provide a reference for you.

See more information here.


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