Environment Magazine

Palaeo-ecology PhD Scholarships

Posted on the 01 March 2017 by Bradshaw @conservbytes

Palaeo-ecology PhD scholarshipsWith my new position as Matthew Flinders Fellow in Global Ecology at Flinders University, I am in the agreeable position to be able to offer two PhD scholarships to the best candidates from around the world. If you feel that you’re up to the challenge, I look forward to hearing from you.

These projects will be in the following palaeo-ecology topics:

PhD Project #1. Ecological networks to examine community cascades of Late Quaternary megafauna extinctions

Rapid and widespread extinction of megafauna species across the globe occurred throughout the Late Quaternary and into the Holocene (~ 50,000 to 5,000 years ago) on most continents. Both human-driven and climate-influenced models have been proposed, but the analyses have largely ignored complex ecological relationships to date. Although we can never expect to find sufficient data to construct complex networks for long-extinct communities because of the incompleteness of the fossil record, we can build proxy networks based on analog (modern) systems and ecologically realistic assumptions validated from current ecosystems. While some palaeo-ecological networks of trophic interactions have been constructed to examine secondary extinctions (cascades) in linked palaeo communities, there has been little development of linked trophic and non-trophic networks in palaeo-ecology. The candidate will construct networks for both Holarctic and Australian palaeo-communities to test for cascading extinctions and ecosystem stability by stochastic virtual ‘removal’ experiments of species within those communities, as well including addition experiments of ‘invasive’ species such as humans.

PhD Project #2. Point-process ecological niche models for extinct megafauna species of the Late Quaternary and early Holocene

Hindcasted climate projections are now becoming more common for the last 100,000 years of Earth’s recent history, so it is now possible to develop increasingly sophisticated ecological niche models of various megafauna species that went extinct during the Late Quaternary and early Holocene. Focussing on Australia, the Holarctic and South America, the candidate will develop both traditional (maximum entropy, linear models) and point-process niche models for a variety of species from these regions for which sufficient, high-quality fossil information (age & quality) exist. Point-process models focus on the spatial locations of presence-only points, with the ability to model the corresponding spatial dependencies explicitly. Hence, they provide greater clarity about the underlying ecological processes driving the observed patterns. Involvement of palaeo-vegetation models and datasets will also be possible. The overarching aim will be to develop time-variant models of potential niche shifts as climate limits wax and wane during the periods of first human intervention.

Palaeo-ecology PhD scholarshipsBoth projects will be associated to some degree with the new ARC Centre of Excellence in Australian Biodiversity and Heritage (CABAH), but will be based entirely at Flinders University in Adelaide.

If these topics interest you, please send me a CV and a brief description of why you believe you are the idea candidate. These scholarships are open to anyone from any country, but a strong mathematical background, preferably in ecology already (but not necessarily restricted to the natural sciences), is necessary. Additionally, to be competitive for the scholarships you will need to demonstrate a publishing history (i.e., peer-reviewed articles already published, preferably with first authorship).

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that I’m on the lookout for other good national or international PhD students who would be competitive for standard scholarships (e.g., IPRS for international students; PRS for Australian students). These projects include:

  • An examination of the relationship between environmental performance and human health among nations and regions
  • Projection models of human expansion across the globe at over the Late Quaternary/early Holocene.

I’m looking forward to your applications.

CJA Bradshaw


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