2 PhD positions: Multi-level ecosystem responses to climate change (1.0 FTE)


Ben-Gurion University, Israel

Job description

Ecosystems are highly complex systems characterized by hierarchies of organization and trophic levels. Their response to climate change is likely to involve mechanisms operating at different levels, such as phenotypic changes and evolutionary adaptation in individual plants, spatial self-organization of plant and herbivore populations, and community reassembly. Depending on history, disturbances, and environmental variability, ecosystem response can be realized in various pathways; some may lead to tipping points and collapse, while others may result in resilient states. 

For our ERC-Synergy project Pathways of resilience and evasion of tipping in ecosystems (RESILIENCE), we offer two PhD positions at Ben-Gurion University. RESILIENCE aims to fundamentally advance our understanding and predictions of tipping points and critical transitions in ecosystems and reveal how these can be evaded and even reversed through spatial pattern formation. RESILIENCE will develop a new theory for emerging resilience through spatial pattern formation and link this with real tipping-prone biomes undergoing accelerating global change: savanna and tundra. 

The successful candidates will study various aspects of multi-level ecosystem response to environmental stress in dryland biomes, savanna, or tundra to identify pathways of resilience associated with spatial patterning. We are looking for self-motivated candidates with a solid mathematical background, interests in pattern formation and ecology, and excellent English language skills. The candidates are expected to: (1) be involved in the development of spatial vegetation models for plant populations and communities that capture various elements of ecosystem complexity, such as phenotypic changes, plant-resource and plant-soil feedbacks, herbivore dynamics, and effects of ground templates, e.g. stone patterns in tundra, (2) study the models using mathematical analysis, numerical simulations, and numerical continuation in one and two spatial dimensions, (3) confront model predictions with available empirical data. The candidates will benefit from the expertise of the four Principal Investigators (PIs) in the RESILIENCE project: Ehud Meron, a physicist at Ben-Gurion University; Arjen Doelman, a mathematician at Leiden University; Max Rietkerk, an ecologist at Utrecht University, and Isla Meyers-Smith, an ecologist at the University of British Columbia.


The candidates should have B.Sc. and M.Sc. degrees in physics, mathematics, or engineering sciences. Acquaintance with nonlinear dynamics, pattern formation, and ecology, and experience in modeling and numerical computations are advantageous. The project is interdisciplinary, and affinity with or interest in working in an interdisciplinary environment is important.


The successful candidates will receive Ph.D. scholarships (1.0 FTE) to work with Prof. Ehud Meron at the Swiss Institute for Dryland Environmental and Energy Research (SIDEER) of the Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research (BIDR), located in the Sede Boqer campus of Ben-Gurion University. The monthly fellowship will be approximately 10,000 NIS. The offer includes subsidized residence, most likely in the university dorms. 

About the organisation

The SIDEER is an interdisciplinary research institute consisting of physicists, applied mathematicians, ecologists, and environmental scientists, covering in their research major aspects of dryland ecosystems. It is one of three institutes that comprise the BIDR, with the other two offering complementary expertise in water research, agriculture, and dryland biotechnologies. The BIDR is located in the Sede-Boqer Campus, about 60km south of the main campus of BGU in the city of Beer-Sheva. The Sede Boqer campus is an intimate place with a spectacular and inspiring desert landscape and an international atmosphere, thanks to the Albert Katz International School for Desert Studies it hosts.

Additional information

For more information about these positions, please contact Prof. Ehud Meron via ehud@bgu.ac.il


Everyone deserves to feel at home at our university. We welcome employees with a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives.

To apply, please send your curriculum vitae, including a letter of motivation via the ‘APPLY‘ button. NOTE: Direct applications via email are not appreciated.

The application deadline is 20th of March, 2024. The application procedure is organised via Utrecht University as project coordinator.