PhD Position: From Cuteness to Conservation: Using the Hazel Dormouse as a Model for Cross-Disciplinary Learning on Climate Change and Biodiversity Conservation

Updated: 2 months ago
Deadline: 29 Sep 2023

In a cross-faculty science project between Department of Biology (Faculty of Natural Sciences) and Department of Media, Design, Education and Cognition (Humanistic Faculty) we announce a three-year PhD position starting September 2023 or as soon as possible thereafter within the project:

From Cuteness to Conservation: Using the Hazel Dormouse as a Model for Cross-Disciplinary Learning on Climate Change and Biodiversity Conservation.

Purpose of the PhD project
In targeting the goal of climate neutrality by 2050, educating youth about the effects of climate change on biodiversity and ecosystem functioning is of great importance. The PhD student is expected to investigate how novel data on the Danish Hazel dormouse can be used to create a cross-disciplinary educational tool and platform where science, learning and management meet each other.

This project aims to develop science-based educational tools to fill knowledge gaps in the public understanding of ecosystem functionality using the threatened dormouse as an example. The PhD student is expected to develop and investigate educational tools that illustrate how population dynamics are influenced not only by intrinsic factors and extrinsic factors including climate change, competition for food and nest sites, and habitat fragmentation. Investigation of these tools can focus on their potential to increase the learning experience and heighten the understanding of the climate change-driven effect on ecosystem functioning and biodiversity. We expect the PhD student to explore and analyze the outcome and value of science-based learning in out-of-school venues, like museums (in particular Naturama ) and youth-driven forums, as well as interactive educational platforms with learning material and Social Media.

Motivation for overall research focus
Captivating stories based on charismatic species are key communication instruments for attracting and maintaining interest in science. Such stories can highlight the connection between the population ecology of a species and climate change. The dormouse is one of Denmark’s most charismatic species and we envisage it as a flagship species in citizen science, teaching and outreach projects focussing on themes like climate change, biodiversity, population ecology and dynamics, mathematical modelling, and trophic interactions. We expect that novel field data on this species’ demography, genetics, and population dynamics at the periphery of its distribution range can provide a concrete empathy-triggering case story for teaching and public awareness. We expect a focus of the PhD study to be the investigation of how engagement with this case story affects citizens’ understanding of the climate change driven problems and the need for changing their life habits in the direction of more sustainable living and ecological awareness. As Naturama natural history museum is a project partner, we expect this museum to be a key venue for talking about climate change and biodiversity loss.

The team of supervisors
Thomas Bjørneboe Berg (PI supervisor, Cpop, Department of Biology and Naturama – Natural History Museum in Svendborg). As Naturama’s senior scientist Thomas has conducted research on the hazel dormouse since 2012 at SDU’s research station in Svanninge Bjerge. Main research interest covers population ecology and dynamics, trophic interactions as well as biotic and abiotic factors affecting these themes. Learn more about the research .

Owen Jones (CPop, Department of Biology, co-supervisor). Owen is interested in understanding the diversity of demographic behaviour across species. In particular, he is interested in how senescence varies among species and environments and how the drivers of population change (including climate change) vary among species.

Nina Bonderup Dohn (Department of Media, Design, Education and Cognition, Humanistic Faculty, co-supervisor). Nina’s research focuses on knowledge, learning and evaluation in formal and informal settings, with a particular interest in the use of ICT for learning, and in supporting the transfer of learning across contexts. Nina leads the research programme , which focuses on designs for learning with ICT.

The team collaborates closely with researchers working on dormouse at University of Copenhagen, University of Aarhus and Aalborg University, as well as researchers from the United kingdom, Germany, and Lithuania. It has contact with all national research units concerned with ICT-mediated learning and many connections to international units in Europe, the USA and Australia. Finally, they have close contact with local groups within The Danish Society for Nature Conservation working on dormouse, the Danish Mammal Society, and private persons involved in citizen science.

Naturama is an active and energetic communication centre with a long history as a natural history museum. Naturama is a natural history museum under the Ministry of Culture and builds on five “legs” Research, Collections, Exhibition, Teaching and Administration. Today, Naturama has a wide range of presentations ranging from the huge collection of taxidermied animals at sea, on land and in the air, to special exhibitions that push the boundaries of what a natural history museum can offer using a wide range of engaging teaching. This includes a 360-degree Audio Visual Sound Scape Theatre, and live animals (incl. the hazel dormouse). The teaching is a mixture of activities, practical exercises, and demonstrations. All teaching is adapted to educational level and age. 

CPop - The Interdisciplinary Centre on Population Dynamics - conducts innovative research on changes in survival, longevity, and population aging, including their policy, economic, and cultural implications. CPop has a broad framework covering Department of Biology, Dept. for the Study of Culture, Department of Economics, and Department of Public Health. The group at the Department of Biology consists of six people.

Learning, Design and Digitalization is a research programme within the Department of Media, Design, Education and Cognition. The main focus of this research programme is on opportunities and issues related to the digitalization of education, teaching, and learning. Special importance is attached to research activities concerned with digital designs for learning Central to the programme is the question of how digital content and platforms and digitally conveyed communication may be designed to enhance education, teaching and learning at different levels (ranging from primary school to tertiary education) in formal and informal communication contexts alike. The research programme currently consists of ten researchers. 

We expect the qualified PhD applicant to:

  • Have good Danish and English skills, both in speaking and writing
  • Have good communicative skills in front of audiences
  • Have knowledge in SoMe platforms
  • Be ready for periods with intensive field work together with TBB and alone.
  • Have statistical skills using R
  • Be engaged, show initiative, co-operative, be able to work alone, showing awareness and confidence in own skills and capabilities

The PhD applicant will be formally employed at the Department of Biology and will also be affiliated with and working at the Department of Media, Design, Education and Cognition and at Naturama.

For further information please contact Thomas Bjørneboe Berg, tel.: +45 2488 6285, e-mail:

Application, salary etc.
Appointment as a PhD Research Fellow is for three years. Employment stops automatically at the end of the period. The holder of the scholarship is not allowed to have other paid employment during the three-year period.

The successful applicant will be employed in accordance with the agreement on salaried PhD scholars between the Ministry of Finance and AC (the Danish Confederation of Professional Associations). Please check links for more information on salary  and taxation .

The successful candidate will be enrolled at this university in accordance with faculty regulations and the Danish Ministerial Order on the PhD Programme at the Universities (PhD order).

The University wishes our staff to reflect the diversity of society and thus welcomes applications from all qualified candidates regardless of personal background.

Application must be in English and made in the form of a Declaration of Interest including the following:
• A research proposal/description of your approach to the above project (max one page excluding references)
• A letter stating your specific interest, motivation and qualifications for the project in question (max. two pages) (please attach this under box "Application form")
• Detailed CV, including personal contact information
• Copies of diplomas, Bachelor as well as Master’s degree, including transcript of notes/grades
• Up to two relevant publications attached as separate pdf files. If the publication holds co-authors, a co-author declaration must be attached as part of the relevant publication.
• At least two signed reference letters. Should your referees wish to send their letters directly to us, please have them use e-mail: mentioning your name and the title of the position in the subject line. And please note that these also need to reach us before deadline.

Shortlisting may be used in the assessment process.

Further information about the PhD-study can be found at the homepage of the University .

Applications must be submitted electronically using the link "Apply online". Attached files must be in Adobe PDF or Word format. Each box can only contain a single file of max. 10 Mb. We strongly recommend that you read How to apply before you apply.

Incomplete applications and applications received after the deadline will neither be considered nor evaluated. This also applies to reference letters.

Further information for international applicants about entering and working in Denmark.

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