Postdoc position: Spatial patterning and community assembly across the tundra biome


The University of British Columbia, Canada

Job description

There is an urgent need to understand the effects that global change can have on the Earth, its system components and ecosystems. One area of critical concern is the imminent abrupt and irreversible critical transitions of ecosystems through tipping points. Recent discoveries indicate that such tipping could be evaded and even reversed in ecosystems through spatial pattern formation, thereby creating pathways of resilience. For our ERC-Synergy project Pathways of resilience and evasion of tipping in ecosystems (RESILIENCE) we are offering a postdoctoral position for a self-motivated candidate with a strong scientific background in the fields of ecology, remote sensing, environmental sciences, data science, mathematics or statistics with excellent English language skills

The aim of RESILIENCE is 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 candidate will benefit from the expertise of the four Principal Investigators (PIs) in the RESILIENCE project: Max Rietkerk, an ecologist at Utrecht University, Arjen Doelman, a mathematician at Leiden University, Ehud Meron, a physicist at Ben-Gurion University, and Isla Myers-Smith, an ecologist at the University of British Columbia. 

In this postdoc project at University of British Columbia, you will study community assembly in tundra ecosystems, revealing how tundra plant species form spatial patterns and how this confers resilience to global change across the tundra biome. For this project, you will assemble spatially explicit datasets of plant community composition working with the point framing data from the International Tundra Experiment (ITEX+) database. You will then statistically model vegetation change over time and in response to climate change drivers taking into account the spatial arrangement of tundra plants and the spatial patterning of ecosystem types in the surrounding landscape. This research will test the hypothesis that certain spatial patterning can confer resilience to ecological change using approaches previously applied in savanna and dryland ecosystems. This research will increase our understanding of tundra ecosystem resilience and will be used to predict rates of landscape and ecological change with global change across the tundra biome. We collaborate with other PhD’s, postdocs and senior researchers from the different involved universities to explore mathematical and physical models of the resulting data to address the larger project goals.


Candidates for this postdoc position should have:

  • A PhD degree in ecology, remote sensing, environmental sciences, data science, mathematics, statistics or a related field.
  • Strong quantitative skills including ecological data analysis, statistical analysis and data management.
  • Experience in R (and/or Python) programming.
  • Experience using version control software and conducting collaborative science.
  • An interest in interdisciplinary research spanning the fields of ecology, remote sensing, spatial analysis and mathematical ecology.
  • Experience in writing and publishing peer-reviewed articles.
  • Fluency in verbal and written English.
  • Ability to work independently and lead multi-author collaborative research projects.
  • Interest in working in an interdisciplinary and collaborative environment as a part of a diverse team.
  • Willingness to provide mentorship to early career researchers on the team.

Candidates for this PhD position would ideally have:

  • Willingness to lead fieldwork in Arctic locations
  • Knowledge of spatial analysis and Bayesian statistics.
  • Experience conducting fieldwork.
  • Experience in northern ecosystems.
  • Experience conducting ecological monitoring and/or experimental design.


You will be offered a full-time two-year position with the potential to extend to a third year. The annual salary will be $60,000 CAD per year. UBC offers postdocs a wide-ranging benefits plan that includes extended health and dental coverage. Postdocs are encouraged to apply for external funding to support their independent research building on this position within the research group.

About the organization

This position will be based at the Department of Forest and Conservation Sciences, Faculty of Forestry, the University of British Columbia, Vancouver campus, which is located on the territory of the Musqueam (xʷməθkʷəy̓əm) People. 

The University of British Columbia is a global centre for teaching, learning and research, consistently ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world. The University of British Columbia’s (UBC) Faculty of Forestry is recognized globally as one of the leading forestry faculties in the world. As the largest Faculty of Forestry in Canada, we welcome almost 1500 undergraduate and graduate students from over 40 countries every year to study forestry at UBC.We strive to create a respectful, positive and safe working environment for people of all backgrounds. We believe that inclusiveness and diversity are essential to academic excellence. We encourage members of underrepresented groups to apply including First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples, Indigenous peoples of North America, Black-identified persons, other racialized persons, persons with disabilities, and those who identify as women and/or 2SLGBTQ+.

Additional information

For more information about this position, see or contact Prof. Isla Myers-Smith (contact information at


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.