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Research Fellow in Systems Modelling

Southampton, United Kingdom
£34,980 to £37,099 per annum
Closing date
18 Mar 2024

Landscape Dynamics and Ecology

Location: Highfield Campus
Salary: £34,980 to £37,099 per annum
Full Time Fixed Term until 30/09/2026
Closing Date: Monday 18 March 2024
Interview Date: To be confirmed
Reference: 2623824WR

University of Southampton, School of Geography & Environmental Science (SoGES).

Start Date from 1st September 2024 for 2 years.

A range of metrics show freshwater ecosystems as amongst the most vulnerable on global scales, yet systematic solutions for their recovery or restoration are not available anywhere in the world. Recovering a lake that has undergone a regime shift is not straightforward, with hysteresis and the strength of new feedback loops often causing failure. The holder of this full time 2-year (24-month) post will undertake novel scientific research using systems dynamics modelling as part of the exciting NERC-funded project entitled ‘Recovery pathways for lake ecosystems’ awarded to Prof. Pete Langdon and colleagues. The project goal is to quantify the balance of factors influencing the recovery of freshwater ecosystems from undesirable (eutrophic) states. We aim to provide a unifying theoretical and practical framework for understanding what drivers and within-lake processes influence lake recovery pathways. This will be developed through three work packages, comprising data assimilation (WP1), empirical analyses (WP2) and system-based modelling (WP3), working with lake system stakeholders across all WPs. 

The researcher will develop, parameterise and apply a novel systems-based modelling framework to simulate the multidimensional causes of regime shifts and recoveries in different freshwater lake systems under different conditions of lake size/depth, drivers and system complexity using specialist systems dynamics modelling software, such as STELLA. These models will be informed by the empirical datasets generated in WP1 and WP2 and will be used to test plausible management scenarios to facilitate lake recovery, with five key outputs:

(i) By simulating case-specific external drivers under a Monte Carlo spectrum of initial conditions, future trajectories and uncertainty magnitudes, the successful candidate will identify recovery pathways associated with different pre-collapse stressor trajectories (i.e. gradients and noise), alternative states (i.e. post-collapse) and outcome variables of interest (i.e. water quality measures vs productivity proxies). 

(ii) By establishing the dominant parameters and feedback loops, the successful candidate will ascertain how the number, combinations and strengths of reinforcing and balancing feedback structures influence the timescale of lake recovery, the presence of recovery pathways and the best timing of lake restoration efforts.

(iii) Trade-off analysis will consider where recoveries are associated with unintended consequences, including (a) scenarios where the recovery of the primary outcome is associated with the degradation of secondary or tertiary outcomes, (b) the effects of management on the multi-decadal resilience of the system to cyclical periods of collapse and recovery (i.e. short-term recovery vs long-term sustainability and resilience), (c) the desirability of the final state, and (d) the financial costs of restoration efforts. 

(iv) To define the extent to which alternative management practices are generalisable to different lake contexts, the successful candidate will classify different archetypes of system recovery across the landscape of stressor, feedback and management combinations. The successful candidate will focus on the pathways that forewarn decision-makers about the efforts needed for long-term recovery.

(v) To encourage the scrutiny and uptake of the systems framework by other researchers, stakeholders and policy-makers (through our close links with our project partners), the models and associated R code will be made publicly available via open access dissemination. The successful candidate will write a practical guidebook on how to use our models in lake management and work with our stakeholders on how to apply the models in practice, while offering future consultation advice.

The post holder will work with a wide range of lake system experts from Southampton, UCL and Rothamsted, in addition to numerous project partners and stakeholders, and will benefit from the early-career support opportunities available across these institutions. 

The University of Southampton is in the top 1% of world Universities and one of the UK’s top 10 research-intensive universities. The University is committed to fostering a culture of equality, diversity and inclusion. Recruitment will follow prescribed anti-discriminatory and equal opportunities protocols, including gender balance, and we particularly encourage applications from candidates belonging to groups who are under-represented within academic posts at the University, including, but not limited to: people from Black and minority ethnic groups; and those with visible or invisible disabilities. This grant will also adopt a family-friendly philosophy for all participants of any gender, in order to support their professional careers. We are a Disability Confident employer, with institutional and departmental level Athena SWAN awards. We are a signatory to the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers and can provide opportunities for career development and mentoring.

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion | University of Southampton

For further enquiries please contact Prof. Pete Langdon ( or Prof. Helen Bennion (

What we can offer you

As part of our commitment to your wellbeing, we offer an occupational pension scheme and generous holidays. Staff also have access to our state-of-the-art on-campus sports, arts, and culture facilities and access to a number of University employee-discount schemes.

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