Sunday, August 9, 2015

Job: Postdoctoral position in community ecology

The Belmaker (Tel Aviv University; and Chase Labs (German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research, Leipzig; are looking for a postdoctoral fellow to work on a collaborative biodiversity synthesis project. The research will focus on exploring novel methods to decompose and compare changes in biodiversity in space and time. The project will make use of existing global datasets, primarily of marine fishes. The successful applicant is expected to spend significant amounts of times in both Israel and Germany, but specific details are negotiable. This is a one-year fellowship renewable for a second year upon performance.  Start date is flexible but can be as soon as October, 2015.

Skills: The ideal candidate will possess a background in community ecology, a strong publication record and good programming skills in standard statistical platforms (e.g., R).
Contact: Interested candidates should send a C.V. (including references) to Applications will be accepted until the position is filled.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Faculty Position (open-rank), Brown University - Conservation Biology (with expertise in Ecology or Evolutionary Biology)

The Institute at Brown for Environment and Society (IBES) and the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB) seek to fill an open-rank faculty position in Conservation Biology. The successful applicant will be appointed at the rank of Associate Professor or Professor (with tenure) or Assistant Professor (tenure-track). We will consider outstanding candidates whose research addresses problems in conservation biology from a strong disciplinary foundation in ecology or evolutionary biology. The successful candidate will develop a vigorous externally funded research program that significantly advances disciplinary knowledge, and will actively engage in interdisciplinary collaborations with faculty and students. They will be expected to share a strong commitment to excellence in teaching and mentoring graduate and undergraduate students. 
A successful senior candidate must have an outstanding record of national and international scholarly achievement, a proven record of successful research funding, and demonstrated excellence in undergraduate and graduate teaching and advising. A successful junior candidate must be engaged in a research program with the potential to influence his or her field, demonstrate the intention to obtain external funding, and demonstrate the potential for excellence in undergraduate and graduate teaching and advising. Candidates are encouraged to contact Professor Dov Sax, chair of the search committee, with questions about the nature of the position.
All candidates should submit: (1) a cover letter describing their interest in the position, (2) a curriculum vitae, (3) a research statement, and (4) a teaching statement. Senior candidates (full and associate) should include the names of five references who would be contacted at the appropriate time by the search committee. Junior candidates should have three letters of reference sent at the time of the application. To receive full consideration applications must be received by October 1, 2015. The search will remain open until the position is filled or the search is closed. Brown is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer, and women and minorities are encouraged to apply.  Send materials to:

Friday, January 30, 2015

Postdoctoral stipend: Biogeographical regions as a conservation tool - SLU Uppsala

Postdoctoral stipend: Biogeographical regions as a conservation tool

A 12 month postdoctoral stipend is available at SLU Uppsala. The stipend corresponds to an average of about 25.000 SEK per month.

Project description:
The objective of this research project is to identify biogeographical regions within Sweden, which can aid conservation decisions. The overall applied aim is to increase adaptation of forest conservation measures to regional conditions. The result will have a large potential use as decision support when formulating recommendations about e.g. setting aside reserves, designing retention approaches at logging or planning of restoration measures. The main data source will be the extensive species data-bases within the Species Observations System at Swedish Species Information Centre, available through Swedish LifeWatch Other biophysical data-bases may also be used. The research implies handling of large datasets and statistical analyses mainly using multivariate methods. The postdoc will be part of a group who conducts policy-relevant research on forestry and biodiversity (

Lena Gustafsson (
lena/) will be the host for the postdoc but several other people will also be involved. More information can be obtained from Lena Gustafsson via email

Qualifications: The successful candidate should hold a PhD in ecology (or equivalent) and have a track-record in scientific publication. Strong skills in multivariate statistics and handling of large dataset are necessary. Good knowledge about nature conservation in forests is an advantage, but not a prerequisite. We are not allowed to give the stipend to anyone previously employed by SLU.

The application should include:
(1) a summary of previous research experience (max. a half page),
(2) a description of what you want to learn and deliver through the project (max. a half page),
(3) curriculum vitae and
(4) two reference persons.

Your complete application should be sent to Professor Lena Gustafsson, Box 7044, SE-750 07 UPPSALA, or, to arrive at the latest March 2 , 2015.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A trip of the past: the fossils talk to us about biogeography.

Insights of the PS3 Plenary Symposium Session on Saturday 10.01.2015

After a nice reception at the Botanical Garden which ended very late, the attendees congregated at the Auditorium of the University of Bayreuth next morning for the Plenary Symposium. During the session labelled: “Paleogeography: The importance of fossil data to species biogeography. Past, present and future”, the speakers Alicia Stigall, Thomas Servais, Wolfgang Kiessling, Thomas Denk, Andrea Sánchez and Catherine Badgley held presentations of a historical perspective of Biogeography.

To name some examples of the talks of this session, Stigall highlighted the difficulties of making biogeographical analyses with paleontological data. However, using an approach named Environmental niche modelling (ENM) is possible to incorporate into biogeographic inference the temporal, spatial, and environmental information provided by the fossil record, as a direct evidence of the extinct biodiversity fraction.

On the other hand, Andrea Sánchez explained some of the limitations of the fossil record: they represent a fraction of the living information of ancestral times, and therefore the biodiversity we see today is not representative of the historical one, especially after scenarios of high extinction. Her research team analysed the phylogenetic map of the Hypericum sp.  and they found out that it did not correspond with the fossil record.  They analysed the fossil data with a diversification–extinction–cladogenesis (DEC) model incorporating a model of the fossil reconstructions. As fossil record provides information of the location of the organisms, the climate as well as the ecological conditions of the environment of the previous times, dispersal patterns could be described. This allows to infer the past potential distribution and ecological corridors and barriers for dispersal.

Finally, Catherine Badgley explained a model of biotic responses to changes in earth history in terms of biogeographical processes. Specifically, tectonic changes and other environmental changes as change of sea level and climate change open and closes dispersal corridors for species. He explain three examples that portrait this scenario: in Miocene faunas of Pakistan and Spain, and in Quaternary faunas of South Africa. In these three examples of mammals’ biogeography, he concluded how the range of dispersal of these organisms was affected by climate change in accordance of the models applied.

by Yrneh Ulloa

Picture from:

Pre - Conference field trip: Humboldt as a Young Scientist (1792 – 1796)

Last Wednesday, just before the start of the conferences, participants had the chance to be part of a day excursion that visited places that where part of Alexander von Humboldt life during his youth. While listening to amusing stories about his life before becoming the great scientist that we all now, everyone was delighted with beautiful landscapes covered with snow. The excursion included visits to forest and mining areas in the Fichtelgebirge and Frankenwald mountain ranges. 

Although it was a very cold day for an excursion, the participants enjoyed short hikes in different parts of the route; one in particular will be hard to forget. As the temperatures dropped down, a short hike in the area of Bad Berneck took place; this is when all assistants introduced themselves and enjoyed short conversations as they walked their way to a famous cave in the area. Here, there was a wonderful surprise awaiting: some hot coffee and tea have been served and was secretly waiting for the hikers! Here they all recharged the batteries with some hot coffee and continue the adventurous ride! 

By Sofía Gonzales Zúñiga. 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

CT5 Conservation Biogeography Short Lecture Series

Werner Ulrich (CT5.2) has developed a new method of estimating abundance of species in a community by assessing the factor of competition between individual species.
Laura Kehoe (CT5.3) discussed Land Use Intensity as compared with biodiversity in a very interesting talk, which showed globally, the areas which specifically compare land with high anthropogenic use that is adjacent to natural areas of high biodiversity. These high biodiversity to land use regions were found to be dominantly in the tropics: Central America, SE Asia and parts of Central Africa; regions with currently high levels of deforestation. But also found within Southern America, Sth Africa and parts of Australia. Significant areas with this high level of land clash lie outside Conservation Internation Biodiversity Hotspots.
Jenny McGuire (CT5.4) modelled the potential movement of animals over negative temperature gradients (due to climate change) finding worryingly that only 22% of landscape patches within her USA model had enough interconnectivity for successful movement. This is due to anthropogenic land use changes, fragmenting the landscape, very high in the agriculturally-rich eastern USA. Including climate corridors in the models connected and improved this potential movement between landscape patches greatly. How well will seemingly narrow vegetation corridors work in reality?
Carston (CT5.5) gave a thorough account of gaps within current global animal research data, including methods and abilities to track and calculate ranges of mammals. He showed that prioritization of data mobilisation is necessary because data is heavily biased to Western research organisations and completeness in overall data gaps would be significantly improved by finding local data sources.
Ricardo Dobrovolski (CT5.6) showed us that habitat amount determines the extinction risk threshold on a macro-logical scale, for the individual and community level . These risk factors should be compiled and expanded upon in the future to b used in conjunction with global climate change models.

Genotype to the Phenotype - Revolutionising Evolutionary Dynamics (PS1.3 - Luisa Orsini)

Understandings of relations between communities/organisms and climate change commonly miss a linkage between the genotype and the phenotype. Luisa Orsini today discussed the effects of environmental changes on natural populations and communities, by gauging ecological genetic drift. Using Daphnia (water flea) as a keystone species from freshwater ecosystems, she measured the response to both natural and anthropogenic changes of 166 individual marker genomes and at the phenotypic level, over extended generations. This was possible because Daphnia have a short generation time and parthenogenetic reproduction, meaning cloned females are produced during favourable external conditions and sexually produced “resting phase” eggs in times of environmental stress. These resting phase eggs give the ability to look back into the Daphnia's 'genetic timeline'.
She produced repeatable patterns of adaptations of the genome from spatially separate communities, using stresses of an anthropogenic nature, predation and parasitism, as well as temperature changes.
What I found most interesting is that this has an applicability for understanding the influence of genetic changes at a community level, while perhaps not directly to all other species, but for understanding the evolutionary and ecological changes behind a community under the combined weight of climate and anthropogenic change. This will hopefully be the cause for further research in this groundbreaking area.

Lake Genval, Belgium (photo credit:

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Daniel Rabosky receives MacArthur & Wilson Award in Bayreuth

Today, Daniel Rabosky of the University of Michigan received the biennial MacArthur & Wilson Award.  During his Award Lecture, he presented the diverse projects on which he is working. The general focus of his work is on speciation and extinction as potentially dominant determinants of species richness. The main goal of his research is finding out why species richness varies so dramatically across the globe. To name an example, he explained how in Ecuador you might find 11000 tree species per plot versus 41 in the Smithsonian park close to Washington, which illustrates the massive latitudinal gradient of species richness.
Daniel and his team are trying to find the reason for the extreme concentration of biodversity in the tropics. One of their hypotheses was that mean speciation rate is much higher in hotspots of species richness. However, his research on fish species richness showed that mean speciation rates are in fact low in the tropics and high in high latitudes, which is a remarkable result. Another focus of the lecture was on the extremely high lizard diversity in Australia. This is notable because snake diversity is much lower there, despite the taxons having similar demands for habitat conditions. He examined this high speciation rate via phylogenetic tree analysis and explained how the method works. Personally I found his outlook on research extremely progressive  and from what I can say from my limited student-y perspective is that he seems to truly deserve this award. Congratulations, Daniel!

500 million year paleobiogeography. How much is geofantasy and what is applicable today?

The tectonic reconstruction of Pangaea (300-200mya) is understood and well documented, but what happens when we trek back further into deep time?

Thomas Servais explained that the paleobiodiversity provinces and hotspots of Ordovician (450mya) brachiopods have been reconstructed and he can track the 30 million year, pole to equator spread of the ancient genus Veryhachium, which is related to modern dinoflagellates and can still be found today. Such reconstructions give us a glimpse of what life and its dynamics, which at this time was confined largely to the marine world, would have looked like. Future work will relate to locating Orovician biodiversity hotspots and understanding how provinces of the organisms correlated and evolved. 
Thomas frequently referred to the book “Early Paleozoic Biogeography and Palaeogeography” (eds: D. A. T. Harper and T. Servais, publisher: Geological Society of London, 2013; as a good resource which we can use the past to analyse the functioning of present biogeographical settings.

Veryhachium sp. From the Ordovician to the Present.
(Photo credit:

Friday, January 9, 2015

Back Then As Well As Today

Give support to young scientist as Humboldt did – selfless.
said Prof. Dr. Schwarz, President of Alexander von Humboldt Foundation during the opening lecture of the conference. He developed Alexander von Humboldt as a role model for modern scientists and science institutions. No one in the past has shaped concepts in science as Humboldt did. He traveled extensively, documented systematically the more than 3000 new species he found, convened the first science conference which had ever taken place, wrote over 50 thousands letters to colleagues. Today you would call him an international science networker and he would surely be on Facebook and twitter.
Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859)
Or let´s say it with Humboldt´s words “Ideas can only be useful if they come alive in many minds.