Open positions

Two PhD positions available in quantitative population and community ecology

School of Biological Sciences
University of Canterbury, New Zealand
Oct 2019

The Tonkin Lab at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand is seeking outstanding applicants for up to two fully-funded PhD scholarships in quantitative population and community ecology. The scholarships are part of a larger research programme entitled “Rethinking ecological networks in changing environments”. There will be flexibility for the candidate to develop the specific research project, but potential topics include: the development of mechanistic population models that link river flows with population dynamics in a community-wide framework (see our recent paper on wider this topic; Nature 570, 301-303); quantifying how targeted management interventions under uncertain environmental futures propagate through entire ecosystems; and disentangling how different environmental fluctuations interact with the spatial scale at which species move, to generate new insight into ecosystem stability under global climate change. This programme includes collaborators from University of Canterbury, Oregon State University, University of Washington, University of California Berkeley, Sao Paulo State University, and University of Zurich.

Qualifications: Undergraduate degree and Honours and/or Master’s degree (with research component) in ecology or related field. Priority will be given to applicants with analytical/modelling and programming skills (e.g. R or python) and a background in ecological theory. Previous experience working in freshwater ecosystems will be beneficial for certain projects but is not essential. A demonstrated ability to publish in peer-reviewed journals will be viewed favourably. The projects are theoretical/computational, but funding opportunities are available to pursue for field projects.

Location: These positions will be based in the newly formed group of Dr. Jonathan Tonkin ( in the School of Biological Sciences, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand. We are, broadly speaking, community ecologists. But we ask a range of questions to understand how populations and communities vary in space and time, including how landscape or river network structure and dispersal interact to affect the organisation of biodiversity; how global change will alter the structure of ecological networks; how river and riparian species respond to changes in flow regimes (cycles of floods and drought); and how best to forecast the distribution of species in changing landscapes. We are particularly enamoured with freshwater ecosystems, but our research spans disciplinary and ecological boundaries. Our lab is focused on embracing diversity in its membership, and we encourage all suitably qualified individuals to apply. The School of Biological Sciences at the University of Canterbury benefits from a diverse community of researchers from a range of disciplines, supporting world-leading research across all levels of biological organisation. The University of Canterbury has a large and diverse postgraduate community, and a picturesque campus situated within reach of the mountains and sea.

Further information:

Funding: The 3-year scholarship provides an annual stipend of NZD$27,500 (tax free) and covers full university fees (tuition).

Start date: First quarter 2020, but this is flexible.

Contact: To apply email a cover letter that addresses your research interests and experience, curriculum vitae, and contact information for three references to: Dr. Jonathan Tonkin, School of Biological Sciences, University of Canterbury at Screening of applicants will occur immediately (but will end by Dec 1, 2019).