Megafauna dynamics in African savanna areas – impacts of land-use and climate change, and effects on vegetation dynamics

Aarhus Universitet (AU)

Ph.d. & forskning
Østjylland (Aarhus)

Applications are invited for a PhD fellowship/scholarship at Graduate School of Science and Technology, Aarhus University, Denmark, within the Bioscience programme. The position is available from 1 May 2020.

Title:
Megafauna dynamics in African savanna areas – impacts of land-use and climate change, and effects on vegetation dynamics

Research area and project description:
This PhD project is part of the big VILLUM Investigator project “Biodiversity Dynamics in a Changing World” (BIOCHANGE), funded by VILLUM FONDEN. BIOCHANGE aims to address one of the key challenges facing humanity – how to conserve the diversity of life on a planet heading towards 11 billion inhabitants and facing strong climate change in order to safeguard our natural and cultural heritage, quality of life, the numerous ecosystem services on which society depends, and even the basic functioning of the biosphere. Ecological science is key to overcoming this challenge, and BIOCHANGE will work towards this goal via basic research on fundamental Anthropocene ecological dynamics, climate change impact predictions, scenarios, and mitigation options, Big Data ecological approaches (including remote sensing), and interdisciplinary perspectives on human-nature relations and solutions.

The PhD project will contribute to this broader objective by focusing on natural and semi-natural African savannas, which contain a uniquely high diversity of megafauna, but are subject to intense and accelerating human pressure – leading to megafauna declines in many areas, although there also cases of strong megafauna recoveries. The focus will be on understanding megafauna dynamics in African savanna protected areas (PAs), with a focus on 1) how they are affected by protected area management, land-use (within and surrounding the PAs), and climate change, and 2) the consequences for vegetation dynamics (including the widely reported woody expansion). The PhD project will address this key issue by a combination of synthesis and analysis of existing data including integration with remote sensing and other spatial data, and ecological fieldwork in key savanna areas (likely including the Maasai Mara in Kenya, as a contribution to the Maasai Mara Science and Development Initiative https://maasaimarascience.org/).

Supervisors and collaborators:
Project PI prof. Jens-Christian Svenning will be the main supervisor, with assistant professor Robert Buitenwerf as co-supervisor. The PhD student will join the VILLUM Investigator team within the Center for Biodiversity Dynamics in a Changing World (BIOCHANGE) and the Section for Ecoinformatics & Biodiversity (ECOINF). BIOCHANGE is a center of excellence focused on improving our understanding, predictive capacity, and responses to the ongoing and future dynamics in biodiversity under global change. ECOINF harbors strong expertise in macroecology as well as ecology and biodiversity broadly. Together BIOCHANGE and ECOINF constitute an ambitious, collaborative and highly international research community. Selected top-level international collaborators will be included where relevant. PhD students are encouraged to collaborate within the group, across departments and with other universities. More information about the people and research activities of the group can be found at http://biochange.au.dk and http://bit.ly/ecoinfAU.

Qualifications and specific competences:
Applicants must have a relevant MSc (or equivalent degree) in Ecology, Environmental Science or related field, or other relevant disciplines. We expect a strong interest in savanna ecology and ecological analyses. Required skills include a solid background in geographic information systems and spatial statistics and modelling, and experience in R. In addition, the student will be expected to plan and conduct fieldwork independently in African savanna systems (in the context of established collaborations with local partners). Therefore, an interest in tropical fieldwork will be needed, and proven abilities in this area are beneficial.

Place of Employment and Work:
The place of employment and work is Center for Biodiversity Dynamics in a Changing World (BIOCHANGE) and Section of Ecoinformatics & Biodiversity (ECOINF), Department of Biology, Aarhus University, Ny Munkegade 114, DK-8000 Aarhus C, Denmark.

Contacts:
Applicants seeking further information are invited to contact:
Professor Jens-Christian Svenning, phone +45 28992304, e-mail: svenning@bios.au.dk.

Application procedures

Before you apply

Information and attachments:
Please be aware that you must have all relevant appendices, attachments, addresses for referees, etc. ready when you apply, as the entire application must be uploaded to the system in one go.

Documentation of language skills:
The English language requirement at GSST is comparable to an “English B level” in the Danish upper secondary school (“gymnasium”).

English language qualifications comparable to an “English B level” are documented by one of the following tests:

  • TOEFL test, minimum score: 560 (paper-based test) or 83 (internet-based test). The paper-based test must have a “total score”. From the August 2019 call, GSST will no longer accept the paper-based test.
    Aarhus University does not accept the TOEFL ITP test. Aarhus University’s TOEFL code is 8935. Ask the test centre to send your test results to Aarhus University, in order to enable verification of your test results.
  • IELTS (academic) test, minimum average score: 6.5 points
  • Cambridge English Language Assessment:
    Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency (CPE)
    Cambridge English: Certificate of Advanced English with grade A,B or C (CAE)
    Cambridge English: First Certificate with grade A (FCE)

When to take the test and how to upload the documentation:
The test result must not be more than two years old at the time of application.

The English language test should be taken before applying for admission and uploaded under “language skills documentation” in the online application form.

It is possible to apply for admission before you have taken the test. In this case documentation stating that you have signed up for a test (please state expected submission date) must be uploaded. If the test result is not part of the original application the test result is to be sent to sphd@psys.au.dk no later than one month after the application deadline.

The following applicants are exempted from documenting their English qualifications/taking a test:

  • Applicants with citizenship from the following countries: Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the United States, or one of the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway or Sweden).
  • Applicants with a Bachelor’s or Master’s programme completed in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, or the United States. In this case, please upload your Bachelor’s or Master’s diploma under the section ”Language skills documentation”.
  • Applicants with a Bachelor’s or Master’s programme completed at a Danish university for which the requirement was English B level at the time of admission. In this case, please upload your Bachelor’s or Master’s diploma under the section ”Language skills documentation”.

The programme committee may request further information or invite the applicant to attend an interview.

How to apply:
1) Find the application form:
Go to www.phd.scitech.au.dk/for-applicants/apply-here - Note, the online application system opens on 1 December 2019.
Choose February 2020 Call with deadline 1 February 2020 at noon (11.59 AM CET).
You will be directed to the call, and must choose the programme 'Bioscience'.

2) Fill in the following information:

  • Personal information
  • Academic background
  • Admission
  • Financing (if any)
  • Study: In the dropdown menu you must choose the project: "Megafauna dynamics in African savanna areas – impacts of land-use and climate change, and effects on vegetation dynamics"
  • Source (how you found out about the call)

Next to some of the information fields you will find a number. Click on the number to get further directions on how to fill in the information field/what information is needed.

3) Application attachments:
Please be aware that you cannot submit the application if one or several of these documents have not been uploaded.

If you wish to upload more than one document under each section, you must scan/merge all documents into one large PDF file and upload this. Please note that we reserve the right to remove scientific papers, large reports, theses and the like. Instead you can indicate a URL where the information is available.

All information in the application must be in English or Danish, preferably English.

As a minimum all applications must include (pdf-files only, max. 20 MB, no zip):

  • One reference (template for references)
  • Curriculum vitae,
  • Motivation (max. 1 page)
  • Transcripts, grade point averages (weighted and unweighted), and diploma(s) for both Bachelor’s and Master’s degree
  • Project description (½-4 pages). You must upload a project description. When - as here - you apply for a specific project, you may simply copy the project description above, and upload it as a PDF in the application. Alternatively, you may also write your own project description outlining your ideas and research plans for this specific project. You can indicate an URL where further information can be found. Please note that we reserve the right to remove scientific papers, large reports, theses and the like.
  • Documentation of language skills if required.

After submission of the application, you will receive a confirmation e-mail with an application ID, you should use for reference if needed.

GSST reserves the right to verify the authenticity of your educational diploma and transcripts:

  • Request additional information to verify an application.
  • Reject the application if it is proven, or if the University has reasonable belief, that the information provided is false or if the applicant refuses to provide the requested information, whether or not an offer has already been made.
  • For further information on applying, assessment procedures, etc. please see the GSST Application Guide.

Please note:

  • The programme committee may request further information or invite the applicant to attend an interview.

All interested candidates are encouraged to apply, regardless of their personal background.


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Ansøgningsfrist d. 01.02.2020
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Aarhus Universitet (AU)
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Aarhus Universitet blev grundlagt i 1928 og er i dag i den absolutte verdenselite på flere forskningsfelter. Aarhus Universitet (AU) er blandt verdens 10 bedste universiteter grundlagt inden for de seneste 100 år og har en lang tradition for partnerskaber med nogle af verdens bedste forskningsinstitutioner og universitetsnetværk.

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