Postdoctoral fellow

Last application date
Dec 19, 2019 10:03
LA20 - Department of Environment
Employment category
Limited duration
You have a PhD in Bioscience Engineering, Mathematical Biology, Mathematical Ecology or an equivalent degree in Life Sciences with a solid background in Ecology and Modelling
Occupancy rate
Vacancy Type
Research staff

Job description

Project background

Recent climate warming is acting on ecosystems across the globe and affecting biodiversity. Yet, due to slow responses, many biological communities are lagging behind warming of the macroclimate (the climate of a large geographic region). The buffering of microclimates near the ground measured in local areas, arising from terrain features such as vegetation and topography, can explain why many species are lagging behind macroclimate warming. However, most studies ignore the effects of microclimates and key uncertainties still exist about this mechanism. Microclimates are particularly evident in forests, where the canopy buffers understorey habitats. In temperate forests, the understorey contains the vast majority of plant diversity and plays an essential role in driving ecosystem processes. The overall goal of FORMICA (FORest MICroclimate Assessment) is to quantify and understand the role of microclimatic buffering in modulating forest plant responses to macroclimate warming. In one of the work packages, we perform experimental heating and illumination in a large-scale transplant experiment in temperate forests across Europe and closely monitor the microclimate with in-situ loggers. The results will be integrated in models to forecast plant diversity of temperate forests in a warming macroclimate. FORMICA is thus a large integrative study on biotic effects of microclimatic buffering in forests. Here, we advertise for a postdoctoral or PhD candidate to advance the experimental and especially modelling aspects of this work, and join a dynamic team of four PhDs and a postdoc, together with research technicians and collaborators, led by Prof. Pieter De Frenne.

Vacancy Description and Candidate Profile

The successful candidate will develop/adapt and implement a (demographic) distribution model to assess how forest plants will react to microclimate and macroclimate change. Our already collected data will allow us to accurately predict microclimates under a range of environmental conditions and forest management regimes occurring in temperate forests throughout Europe. Both microclimatic effects on temperature, light and vital rates of plants, collected along the latitudinal gradient in the observatory and experiments across much of the distribution ranges of the understorey plants in WP1-3, will be incorporated in the models. In addition to the existing data, measurements of the composition and function of the vegetation in the existing experimental set-up in Italy, France, Belgium, and Sweden will be performed to identify the significance of microclimate buffering. Depending on experience, the candidate will actively engage with existing collaborators and pursue appropriate opportunities, within and outside Ghent University, to further their research.

Profile of the candidate

• You have a PhD in Bioscience Engineering, Mathematical Biology, Mathematical Ecology or an equivalent degree in Life Sciences with a solid background in Ecology and Modelling (also candidates that will obtain their PhD degree soon are invited to apply)

• You have a strong publication record, relevant to the subject of the project

• You have a strong interest in vegetation, ecology, climate change and botany

• You are an enthusiastic and highly motivated person with a strong interest and experience in ecosystem modelling. Knowledge of plant trait frameworks would be an advantage.

• You are a team player with good (English) communication skills and are motivated to work in a collaborative project with PhD students, other post-docs, and technical assistants

• You have experience in, or are keen to develop, networking opportunities to develop your research career

• You have leadership capacities • To be able to offer you a tax-free international post-doc position, you may not have resided in Belgium for more than 24 months in the 3 years prior to the start date of your contract. In addition, you may not have obtained your PhD at a Belgian institution.

Our offer:

• We offer a post-doc position for 18 months, with a possible extension for another 17 months (full time, ca. €2300 net per month)

• Start date is March 2020

• Collaboration in a young and dynamic scientific team, hosted in a highly active research group and the possibility to participate in international networks with academic partners across Europe

How to apply

Please send  your CV, transcript of records and a one-page cover letter explaining how you would approach the position, and answering the following selection criteria, by 19 December 2019 (all documents should be merged together into one single PDF file) to