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Spatially explicit theoretical community ecology

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  • Full or part time
    Dr A Rossberg
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

We entered the anthropocene, where human pressures on the world’s ecosystems have become ubiquitous. But the pressures vary. Some systems are utilised under tight human control, others just driven by climate change. Society expects Ecology to explain what the short- and long-term consequences of this will be, for humanity and for nature itself. Available today are a wealth of ecological data and a patchwork of interpreting models. An overarching theory that integrates these to a big picture that guides our new relation with nature is needed.

Community ecology, metacommunity theory, and environmental niche modelling are three of many established approaches designed to predict the probability of presence or absence of species at sites. This PhD project will aim to unify these approaches through the study of minimal, spatially explicit community models. This will involve constructing such models, simulating them on a high-throughput cluster, identifying emerging patterns, and confronting these with patterns in empirical data. Improvement of existing mathematical theories to explain observed patterns mechanistically is another desired outcome. The research will contribute to filling knowledge gaps in predicting the response of the biosphere to climate change, intensive land use, and other pressures.

The student will work under the supervision of Dr Axel G. Rossberg in the Department of Organismal Biology. The project provides opportunties for training in areas including (i) theoretical ecology; (ii) design, interpretation and analysis of mathematical models; (iii) algorithms, programming techniques, and information technology; (iv) complex systems and statistical mechanics; (v) science communication. An educational plan will be drafted that includes attendance of courses and (international) meetings. All PhD students are part of the QMUL Doctoral College, which provides support with high-quality training and career development activities.

QMUL is committed to the highest quality research and part of the 24 strong Russell Group of elite research intensive universities, which together attract well over two-thirds of all available research funding in the UK. QMUL is unique in London by providing a completely integrated residential campus (for more information please visit

We welcome applications from outstanding students with, or expecting to be awarded, a first class honours degree (or equivalent qualification) or MSc in an area relevant to the project (e.g. theoretical ecology, applied mathematics, statistical physics). Non UK students are required to provide evidence of their proficiency in English language skills. Candidates are strongly encouraged to e-mail to Dr Rossberg ([Email Address Removed]) with cover letter and CV to verify eligibility for the position. Formal applications to the College will require completion of the online application form (

The School holds an Athena SWAN Silver Award and is committed to supporting equality and diversity for all staff and students.

Funding Notes

The studentship will cover tutition fees and provide an annual tax-free maintenance allowance for 3 years at Research Councils UK rates (£16.057 in 2015/16).

How good is research at Queen Mary University of London in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 23.39

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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