PhD position in ecological modelling

Updated: about 1 month ago
Deadline: tomorrow

The Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED)  has a PhD position in ecological modelling.

FRAMEwork aims at establishing biodiversity-friendly farming practices based on the collective, landscape-scale Farmer Cluster approach successfully developed in the UK. FRAMEwork focusses on 11 Europe-wide pilot studies, to develop the necessary ecological, technical and socio-economic knowledge, together with communication and implementation tools needed to support the farmer clusters in establishing biodiversity-friendly farming practices. 

The task of the PhD candidate within this project is to develop the necessary ecological knowledge, by ecological modelling and by ecological monitoring in one of the pilot study areas (Flevoland).

Ecological Modelling. Species that are considered valuable for biodiversity and/or ecosystem services are often dependent on different resources and habitats within the agricultural landscape. For example, beneficial insects often require different habitats for reproduction, larval development and hibernation. These complex dependencies are often over-looked in landscape-ecological studies. To identify these problems, landscape-level population-dynamic modelling approaches have been developed. These models describe the full life-cycle of the species of interest and the spatial and temporal dependencies of each life-stage on specific resources available. The seasonal availability of these resources within the various habitats and the foraging among these habitats in the landscape will drive the dynamics of the population, which, in turn determines its role in providing ecosystem services. Running these models for landscapes that differ in habitat composition and land-use may reveal which habitats and resources are limiting for the target populations. This will help predict the management options that are most effective in enhancing target species and the related ecosystem services. Specific predictions generated by these models will be compared with selected empirical data (from existing data sets, pilot studies or newly designed studies) to validate the models.

Ecological Monitoring. One of the pilot studies is located in Flevoland. A facilitator will be appointed to support the local Farmer Cluster in planning and implementing biodiversity-friendly farming practices. The PhD candidate will assist the facilitator in monitoring the changes in biodiversity during the project and the ecosystem services it provides. Part of this information will also be used for model parameterization and validation.

What are you going to do?

Based on the forementioned modelling approach you will further develop habitat-structured population-dynamical models for selected species or functional groups in selected agricultural landscapes. Starting with natural enemies of pests in arable cropping systems in Flevoland, you will later address two or three other populations in other agricultural systems across Europe. You will study literature data and interact with local facilitators and scientists to obtain all the information needed to structure and parameterize the models.
You will analyze the models and based on that indicate the landscape elements and management options that most likely enhance target species and related ecosystem services.
Together with the facilitator you will design a biodiversity monitoring program for the pilot study area in Flevoland with special focus on the species of interest. You will assist in the actual monitoring, analyze the biodiversity data, and help to formulate advise for further improvement of farming practices.

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