PhD position in quantitative evolutionary ecology

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PhD position in quantitative evolutionary ecology

Postby paulacker » Wed Apr 26, 2023 7:03 am

Dear all,

We have a fully-funded 3-year PhD position in quantitative evolutionary ecology available at the laboratory of Environmental Marine Sciences (LEMAR, Brest, France), in collaboration with the Centre for Biodiversity Dynamics (CBD, Trondheim, Norway). The project is about phenological responses to environmental changes in kittiwakes, and will be supervised by Pr. Emmanuelle Cam, Pr. Jane Reid, and Dr. Paul Acker.

The application process must be completed via the dedicated website: (please see the folder entitled ‘UMR 6539 Laboratoire des sciences de l’environnement marin (LEMAR) - BREST / 8’). Deadline is May 15th 2023.

Enquiries can be sent to Emmanuelle Cam ( and Paul Acker (

Please see full details below.

Feel free to spread. Many thanks for your help!

Best regards,


Analysis of phenological life‐history events – migration, reproduction – in kittiwakes in the context of climate change

One of the most urgent tasks of biologists is to better understand and predict the impact of climate change on wild populations to guide effective protection of biodiversity. Shifts in the timing of annual life-history events, such as seasonal migration or reproduction, are widespread responses to climate change that have been documented across all trophic levels in a wide range of ecosystems. However, the situation remains especially ambiguous in seabirds, and still little is known about their ability to effectively track environmental change through such phenological shifts, despite this group being the most globally threatened of extinction among birds.

Seabirds represent a particular challenge because they use terrestrial and marine habitats to complete their life cycle, and hence potentially experience a wide range of anthropogenic pressures affecting both environments. In this context the impact of climate change is to be understood within a larger set of environmental perturbations that may affect the fitness of individuals, i.e. their survival and breeding success, and hence population growth. Here, decreases in fitness can be mitigated if plasticity and/or micro-evolution result in physiological or behavioral changes allowing phenological adjustment that reduce the mismatch between phenotype and environment. Predictions of short- and longer-term population outcomes therefore require disentangling plastic responses and micro-evolutionary responses to co-occurring perturbations, and assessing whether their combination allows net responses that are sufficient given the pace of environmental changes.

Accordingly, the project aims at dissecting the processes underpinning more than four decades of phenological variation in a population of kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla) located in Brittany (France). This will be achieved by enacting an alternative paradigm in the study of phenology. Indeed, the most recent conceptual development has promoted the idea to work on an underlying latent biological trait upon which natural selection could act, the ‘propensity’ (or ‘liability’) to express a phenological life history event (e.g. migrating, breeding) at a given date in response to environmental variation. Although corresponding statistical models have a long history of use in quantitative genetics, they are still rarely employed to study phenotypic dynamics in wild populations experiencing environmental variation. Here, these models will be integrated with capture-mark-recapture models, to devise cutting-edge ‘Capture-Recapture Animal Models’. This will allow analyzing an exceptional long-term dataset from >20,000 individually marked birds followed during their entire life alongside a detailed pedigree spanning multiple generations.

The main objectives will be (1) to quantify individual variation in the seasonal timing of migration and reproduction, and its relationship with environmental factors characterizing the breeding and migrating habitats; (2) to quantify the fitness consequences of these phenological events, and resulting selection; and (3) to quantify the heritable genetic basis underlying phenology.

We are looking for a student with relevant background in quantitative ecology, ecology, and/or evolutionary biology, with enthusiasm to learn and apply advanced statistical analyses to field data. Key additional requirements are a strong academic background, good communication skills in English, enthusiasm for collaborative teamwork, and ability to undertake independent and self-motivated activity. Experience with R is an asset, and prior experience with Bayesian data analysis will be appreciated. The kittiwake monitoring project is continuing, and participation in fieldwork operations will be possible and encouraged. The candidate will have to hold a master’s degree (or an equivalent degree) at the time of enrollment in the PhD program.

• Pr. Emmanuelle Cam
Marine Environmental Science Laboratory (France)
• Pr. Jane Reid and Dr. Paul Acker
Centre for Biodiversity Dynamics, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Norway

Marine Environmental Science Laboratory (LEMAR), University of Western Brittany,
European Institute for Marine Studies (IUEM), Technopôle Brest-Iroise - rue Dumont d'Urville - 29280 Plouzané - France

The position is fully funded for 3 years (gross salary is 2044.12€ per month).

Questions can be sent to Emmanuelle Cam ( and Paul Acker (

The application process must be completed via the dedicated website:
The project is in the following folder: ‘UMR 6539 Laboratoire des sciences de l’environnement marin (LEMAR) - BREST / 8’. Deadline is May 15th 2023.
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