ACDI Postdoctoral Research Fellowship

Forecasting the timing of climate change risks to biodiversity to strengthen conservation decision-making in Africa

Application Deadline: 29 January 2020 or until position is filled.

Call for Applications
A joint research team from the African Climate and Development Initiative (ACDI) at the University of Cape Town; University College London; and South African National Parks is seeking two Postdoctoral Research Fellows (PDRFs) to join a project on climate change risks to biodiversity. PDRFs will be highly motivated to work as part of an interdisciplinary research team, grow their research expertise, engage with conservation decision-makers and generate peer-reviewed publications. Additionally, there is the opportunity to work with the ACDI-based team on climate change impacts and adaptation in Africa for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) 6th Assessment Report, due in 2021.

Project research will address one or more of the following four key objectives:
(1) Forecast the timing of climate change risks to biodiversity at the species or community level, to quantify where and when losses of species, trait or phylogenetic diversity are expected this century and whether this will occur gradually or abruptly;
(2) Quantify how climate risks to species are expected to accumulate over time to improve consideration of climate change in species threat assessments (e.g., IUCN Red List);
(3) Assess the timeframe and potential for evolution to rescue species from climate driven extinction and how this varies across species and ecosystems;
(4) Use climate and land use change projections to model changes in species threat over time and identify options for expansion of protected areas within Africa and globally.

The overall aim of the broader research project is to link these four key objectives in order to provide improved forecasting to decision-makers about climate change risks to biodiversity. Candidates will be encouraged to develop their own research ideas within the goals of the research team. These PDRFs are an excellent opportunity for those who want to push forward the frontiers in biodiversity, ecological and evolutionary analyses at large spatial scales, considering climate change. Research will exploit existing global or South African biodiversity data on vertebrates and plants including high-resolution species range maps, phylogenetic data and comprehensive functional trait datasets.

The PDRFs will be advised by Dr Christopher Trisos at ACDI and Dr Alex Pigot at University College London. The PDRFs will also be part of a larger team including Prof. Mark New at ACDI, Dr Cory Merow at University of Connecticut, Dr Res Altwegg at the Centre for Statistics in Ecology and the Environment, and Dr Wendy Foden and Dr Nicola van Wilgen at South African National Parks.

PDRFs will be based at ACDI, with funding for travel to University College London and international workshops. PDRFs will be given the necessary resources for their work: desk and office space, IT and communication infrastructure and may participate in the Emerging Researcher Programme (ERP) and other supportive training at University of Cape Town for early career researchers.

Value and tenure:
• The value of the fellowship is ZAR 300,000–325,000 per year for 2 years.
• Application for tax exemption of the fellowship stipend will be made by the University.

Academic / experience criteria:
• A PhD, awarded within the previous five years, in a related discipline (e.g. biodiversity, climate change, conservation biology, ecology, evolution).
• Demonstrated ability to produce peer-reviewed research articles in international journals.
• Excellent written and verbal communication skills in English.
• Desire and ability to work in an interdisciplinary research team setting.
• Experience of handling large datasets
• Excellent technical ability to code in R and/or Python, including analysis of biodiversity, climate or other geospatial datasets.

• Species distribution modelling.
• Interest and experience in engagement with decision-makers.
• Experience in giving oral presentations and interest in public communication of science.
• Experience of source control of computer code and working in collaborations using GitHub and RStudio.
• Experience working with climate data analysis software such as CDO for spatial and temporal analysis of climate data.

Conditions of award:
• Applicants may not previously have held a full-time permanent academic post.
• The successful applicant will be required to register as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Cape Town and will be expected to commence the required research at a mutually agreed date that is ideally no later than end of March 2020.
• The successful applicant will be required to comply with the university’s approved policies, procedures and practices for the postdoctoral sector.

Application requirements:
Applicants should submit: (i) an application letter no longer than 2 pages that includes a description of research interests, research expertise, and suggestion for how they can work towards one or more of the broad project objectives; (ii) a CV including a publication list; (iii) copies of academic transcripts and/or certificates; (iv) an example of written work; (v) email addresses of two references who have been directly involved in their PhD and/or previous postdoctoral research.

Selection process:
• Only eligible and complete applications will be considered for selection.

• Interviews will take place during early February 2020 and the successful candidate is expected to
start as soon as possible thereafter.

Closing date: Applications received before 29 January 2020 are guaranteed to be considered.
Applications received thereafter may be considered if the position has not been filled.

Contact details for submission of applications:
Contact details for enquiries about the fellowship topic and ACDI:
Additional information on ACDI, UCT and UCL can be found at: / /

Selection process

Eligible and complete applications will be considered by the ACDI and we will communicate with short-listed applicants. If you have not heard within two months of the deadline, please assume your application has been unsuccessful.

The University of Cape Town reserves the right to
• Disqualify ineligible, incomplete and/or inappropriate applications;
• Change the conditions of the award or to make no awards at all