Research Fellow / Senior Research Fellow in Forest Science

Location
Sippy Downs, Australia
Posted
02 Oct 2019
End of advertisement period
30 Oct 2019
Contract Type
Fixed Term
Hours
Full Time

Salary Level:  Classification Level A/B/C (Salary range A$68,089 to A$136,810 gross per annum plus up to 17% employer superannuation contributions)
Appointment:  Full-time, fixed-term (5 years)

We are delighted to offer an exciting postdoctoral opportunity in tropical forest ecology and restoration funded through the University of the Sunshine Coast and Australian Research Council. For the first 3 years, the work will focus on a globally significant Australian Research Council project, after which the fellow will be supported in the development of their own research team.

Liana growth following extensive forest clearance is slowing or reducing tree growth and productivity across the tropics, with significant consequences for the global carbon sink, biodiversity and other ecosystem services. However, at the same time, lianas are an integral part of forest ecosystems, contributing to nutrient cycles, animal diets and protecting forests from damage. Therefore, the overall aim of the postdoctoral project is to use vegetation plot data to measure and model the dynamic relationship between trees and lianas and interactions with climate and human disturbance, to determine the consequences for forest biodiversity, biomass and forest successional trajectories.

The focus for the first three years of this position will be on the generation of a new global database of forest-liana vegetation plots, through development of new and pre-existing agreements with scientists from across the world. The second focus will be on the development of existing dynamic global vegetation models to specifically include mechanisms of liana-tree growth feedbacks. A third focus will be to determine the potential implications for both global and Australian forest management and economy implications.

The position is advertised as part of the new, long-term, pantropical, Forest Restoration and Climate Experiment (FoRCE, see below). The work will primarily be based at the University of the Sunshine Coast (Australia), but with 1-3 months secondment to acquire new plot data and to co-ordinate and upload the FoRCE plot data to ForestPlots (http://www.forestplots.net) at the University of Leeds (UK), and potential for field visits to at least one of our primary field sites. The project will interact with complementary field-based projects currently being implemented by at least three PhD students in Tanzania and Australia, contributing to the evidence base in this newly emerging field.

The fellow will be based at the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC), in the Tropical Forests and People Research Centre (https://bit.ly/2SSxkMR).  USC is a research-oriented university rated “well above world standard” in the fields of forestry, ecology, and environmental management (ERA 2018). The fellow will work directly with Associate Professor Andy Marshall (PI of the FoRCE project; Line manager of this position) and Dr Marion Pfeifer at Newcastle University, UK (Co-I of the FoRCE project). The project itself benefit from input and guidance provided by a world-leading team of collaborating scientists with expertise in tropical forest ecology (Prof Oliver Phillips, Leeds), restoration and landscape ecology (Prof Robin Chazdon, USC) and tropical forest management and socio-economics (Prof John Herbohn, USC).

Responsibilities:

  • communicating with multiple researchers to establish data agreements for the collation of tree and liana vegetation plot data, from study sites across the world
  • development of existing dynamic vegetation models to determine liana-tree interactions and their influence on forest recovery from human disturbance
  • analysis of data to produce peer-reviewed scientific articles in top-tier journals
  • development of new grant proposals for continuation of work beyond the postdoctoral period
  • general assistance to the PI in the fulfilment of research objectives of the broader FoRCE project

Essential Criteria:

  • completion of a doctoral qualification in a relevant field or equivalent accreditation and standing
  • excellent publication record in relevant, high-impact, peer-reviewed journals
  • a proven track record of developing mathematical models through computer programming;
  • experience with the development or handling of large datasets
  • advanced spatial analysis skills using either R, Python, Matlab or GIS software
  • experience of working in a diverse and interdisciplinary research team
  • membership of and sound connections with relevant professional bodies and community groups and/or in professional practice
  • strong personal qualities and collegial approaches that contribute to the development and maintenance of a positive academic environment and the development of new partnerships
  • the desire to participate in academic development activities and continue to learn and improve as an effective academic
  • experience in conducting fieldwork in tropical environments
  • proven ability to meet deadlines and complete independent work

Desirable Criteria:

  • previous experience with dynamic vegetation models
  • experience of working in tropical forests

Contact for Further Information:

Associate Professor Andy Marshall
Tropical Forests and People Research Centre
Telephone: + 61 7 5456 5281
Email: amarsha1@usc.edu.au

Closing Date:  Midnight, Thursday 31 October 2019

To Apply:

For more information on how to apply or to view the position description and the skills and experience required to fill the position, visit our website at https://www.usc.edu.au/connect/work-at-usc

The FoRCE Project, www.force-experiment.com:

FoRCE is a pantropical experiment, aiming to measure and understand the long-term dynamics of tropical forest recovery from major human disturbance, and interactions with climate, topography and experimental management. We are using a combination of permanent sampling plots, hemispherical photographs, experimental vine removal, seed germination, tree planting and remote sensing.

We are doing the research to understand (a) fundamental information about biomass and species community changes during forest succession, and (b) how tree planting and management of vines and other weeds affects these changes and promotes more rapid recovery from severe degradation by logging or cyclones.

Our existing 1,000+ plots are located in the Udzungwa Mountains of Tanzania, including 100+ permanent plots. We are measuring tree, liana, palm and strangler density, growth and structure in 0.04ha (sapling) and 0.4ha (large stem) vegetation sample plots with measured and marked stems, stratified across climate and disturbance gradients. We are upscaling these data to the landscape scale using satellite sensor data. We are establishing climate and soil monitoring stations in some plots and for others we have remotely sensed climate data. More permanent plots are being placed in Australia, and later we intend to expand to southeast Asia and tropical America. We are carrying out restoration management in around one third of our permanent plots.

The project lead partners are the University of the Sunshine Coast (Australia), University of York (UK) and Newcastle University (UK). We are also collaborating with several other academic, charitable and government collaborators across the world. The work is mostly research council funded (Australian and UK Research Councils) but with additional funding and in-kind support from corporate and charitable sources. Our work is also registered with the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute and the Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology. Our lead NGO partner is Reforest Africa, who will be using our findings to implement new forest management and training.