Thursday, January 17, 2013

PhD position: modeling of invasive algal species

The Phycology Research Group (UGent) is looking for a highly motivated PhD student who is keen to work on invasive seaweeds and distribution modeling in the framework of a EU FP7 ERA-NET funded project.

European coasts regrettably form a global hotspot for marine introductions with over 500 alien species recorded at present. Seaweeds represent one of the largest groups of marine aliens in Europe and several invasive seaweeds qualify among the most notorious pest species in the marine environment.

Study/Research project:
The main objective of this research opportunity is to predict the potential range of invasive alien seaweeds by developing species distribution models (SDM) under present and future climatic conditions. SDM links species occurrences with the environmental characteristics and have the potential to predict distributions in a geographically explicit framework, including extrapolation in space and time. The predictive power of SDM, however, is very much dependent on the assumption that species are at equilibrium with their environment. The very nature of invasive species makes that this is assumption is not met for these organisms. Therefore SDM of invasive or range-shifting species is particularly challenging, and requires development of advanced modeling techniques:

Detailed objectives include:
1. updating information about distribution of alien seaweeds in Europe
2. developing methodologies aimed at predicting the spread and eventual range of marine IAS under current and future climatic scenarios
3. testing for niche shifts in introduced and invasive seaweeds by comparing the ecological niche in invaded and native ranges
4. identifying geographic areas most likely to be disproportionally impacted by the future spread of invasive species.

What is expected from candidates:
1. EU citizenship
2. A Master of Science degree relevant to the subject (e.g. Biology, Bioscience Engineering, Marine Biodiversity and Conservation, Geography, ...)
3. Excellent study results and a scientific, critical attitude
4. English language proficiency
5. Computer literacy. Experience with geographical information systems (GIS), modeling software and/or scripting is regarded an important advantage

We initially offer of a fellowship of 1 year, which is possibly extendable after positive evaluation. Candidates should be willing to apply for additional external grants (e.g. IWT, FWO). Interested candidates email Olivier De Clerck ( with a motivation letter and CV before 7 February 2013. Preferred starting date: March 1st, 2013.

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