Forecasting ecosystem responses to environmental change

This Earmarked Scholarship project is aligned with a recently awarded Category 1 research grant. It offers you the opportunity to work with leading researchers and contribute to large projects of national significance.

Supervisor – Dr Nicholas Clarkn.clark@uq.edu.au

Dr Nicholas Clark is seeking a PhD candidate to work on an exciting new ARC funded project: forecasting ecosystem responses to environmental change

There is a growing consensus that using models to anticipate the future is vital to mitigate the impacts of environmental change on ecosystems. Yet most ecological models are one-off attempts to predict what ecosystems might be like in many years or decades. This makes it hard for decision-makers to use these models. It also favours models that are not easily scrutinised and improved. A new international study will use an iterative cycle to 1) forecast how species occurrences and abundances will change over short timescales; 2) use predictions to inspect model failures and 3) improve models so that we can continue to learn. This represents a new way of thinking in ecology that, like weather forecasting, has the power to advance our understanding of ecological processes.

The candidate will work within a vibrant team of quantitative ecologists and spatio-temporal modellers to tackle two major questions in ecological modelling:

(1) When can multivariate models improve forecasts of species distributions, abundances and biodiversity compared to simpler models? 

(2) What aspects of models and data control forecast uncertainty across space and time?

The student will be based at The University of Queensland within the School of Veterinary Science, supervised by Dr. Nicholas Clark and A/Prof Ricardo Soares Magalhães. The candidate will work with a diverse group of international researchers, including Dr Konstans Wells (Swansea University, UK), Prof Ethan White (University of Florida, USA) and A/Prof Wenbiao Hu (Queensland University of Technology). Additional support will be given by partners at the Ecological Forecasting Initiative and the Spatial Epidemiology Laboratory, including assistance in computer-based data analysis, model building and scientific communication. The selected student will have the opportunity to work with all partners on this project but will be based at UQ.

This project will help develop the candidate’s skills in critical thinking, project management, data management and analysis, writing and communication. Expected applications of the project are incredibly diverse, meaning the student will be well prepared for a future career in research or with government and non-government land management, biosecurity or conservation agencies.

Preferred educational background

Applications will be judged on a competitive basis taking into account the applicant's previous academic record, publication record, honours and awards, and employment history.

A working knowledge of community ecology and mathematical modelling would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

The applicant will demonstrate academic achievement in the field(s) of ecology or environmental modelling and the potential for scholastic success.

A background or knowledge of R or Python programming and time series analysis is highly desirable.

*The successful candidate must commence by Research Quarter 1, 2022. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date. International applicants may need to apply much earlier for visa reasons.

Apply now