PhD position - Inferring legacy of human activities on tropical forest plant diversity with spatial...

Updated: about 1 month ago
Job Type: FullTime
Deadline: 01 Dec 2020

Within the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 847585, University of Zurich is offering a 36-month PhD position for an early-stage researchers (ESR) in in the area of sustainable land-use decisions.

Job Description

We are looking for applicants to a PhD position on “Inferring legacy of human activities on tropical forest plant diversity with spatial genetics and remote sensing”. We are looking for candidates who have an interest in the understanding social-ecological systems legacies on biodiversity. More specifically, the project focus on long term human legacies, i.e., the hypothesis of ‘human influence tempos’ on different domains of biodiversity, and determine the strength of evidence for such impacts. We take Borneo as a case study, focusing on Sabah and Sarawak. To assess the cumulative effects of human influence on plant species and their traits, we are looking for a candidate versed or eager to learn about disciplines such as social-ecological systems, plant ecology, remote sensing and spatial genomics.

The ESR will (i) gain an understanding on which and how changes in diversity, turnover, structure and function are attributable to early human presence in Borneo, (ii) determine which effect legacies of human settlement and intensity, i.e. ‘human influence tempos’ have an effect on local plant species and trait diversity, and (iii) identify whether changes in trait space due to human legacies are associated with changes in underlying genetic diversity.

Specifically the candidate will: (i) conduct a meta analysis of human legacies on biodiversity in Borneo historical databases on charcoal systems, (ii) apply Bayesian frameworks to understand the linkages between human activities and biodiversity dimensions (eg., traits, composition, structure), (iii) develop and test novel methods for remote sensing plant traits using a combination of remotely-sensed data sets, including novel imaging possibilities using drones, (iv) collect samples and analyse them to obtain information on low quality genome sequences for a selected set of plant species along environmental gradients in Borneo, (v) model the linkage between human influence tempos, remotely-sensed traits and underlying genetic structure. The successful candidate is expected to produce quality research to be published in relevant journals of the field and also white papers to be distributed to the secondment organizations and the local partners and communities. A planned secondment (i.e. internship) of 12 months with the South East Asia Rainforest Research Partnership is part of this project. During this secondment, the ESR will work with the partner organization to understand tropical biodiversity, conservation, dependency of livelihoods on biodiversity and fundamental contextual knowledge of the system. The secondment institution will also support field activities. To perform successfully, potential candidates should have strong interest in biodiversity, social-ecological systems, remote sensing, and genetics, as well as bioinformatics and modelling. Good writing and communication skills are also essential.

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