PhD position, quantitative palaeoecology & ecology, Bergen, Norway

There is a vacancy for a three-year PhD position at the University of Bergen’s Department of Biology within the Ecological and Environmental Change Research Group as part of the European Research Council funded project Humans on Planet Earth – Long-term impacts on biosphere dynamics (HOPE).

About the HOPE project

A critical question in Earth system science is what was the impact of prehistoric people on the biosphere? There is a wealth of information about human impact through clearance, agriculture, erosion, and modifying water and nutrient budgets. Humans have greatly changed the biosphere patterns on Earth in the last 8000–11,000 years, but have humans modified the major ecological processes (e.g. assembly rules, species interactions) that shape community assembly and dynamics? To answer this question, patterns in pollen-stratigraphical data for the last 11,500 years from over 2000 sites across the globe will be explored consistently using numerical techniques to detect quantitative changes in 25 ecosystem properties. Patterns in these properties will be compared statistically at sites within biomes, between biomes, within continents, and between continents to test the hypothesis that prehistoric human activities changed the basic processes of community assembly and that interrelationships between processes changed though time.

Qualifications and personal qualities

- The applicant must hold a Master’s or an equivalent degree within quantitative palaeoecology, biogeography, or ecology, or related fields relevant to the PhD project.
- The successful candidate should be highly motivated, enjoy the challenge of working with very large data-sets, and understand the relevance of the data and the results.
- The successful candidate can work independently and in a structured manner, and have the ability to cooperate with others within HOPE’s consortium as well as within the EECRG, and to follow through challenging ideas.
- Proficiency in both written and oral English is essential.


The successful candidate should have experience in quantitative analyses of palaeoecological or ecological data using the statistical software R or related programs, as well as documented skills in one or more research fields relevant to the position (e.g. Quaternary palaeoecology, palaeoclimatology, applied statistics, numerical ecology, quantitative palaeoecology, biogeography, macroecology, community ecology, biodiversity), and some experience of using large databases.


The successful candidate will be primarily responsible for developing quantitative procedures for evaluating taxon co-occurrences and co-correlations from pollen-stratigraphical data expressed as ‘closed’ percentages, for applying these procedures to pollen data across the globe as part of the HOPE project, and for evaluating taxon co-occurrence analysis in palaeoecology.


The duration of this position is three years. As a PhD candidate, the successful applicant must participate in an approved educational program for a PhD degree within the three-year period.


Closing date: 15 September 2017.

Further information

Detailed information about the position and about how to apply can be obtained by contacting: Professor John Birks, Department of Biology, University of Bergen (+47 5558 3350 or +47 5593 7717, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).