The Mountain Ecosystems research group at Irstea Grenoble ( under the supervision of Georges Kunstler invites applications for a PhD position on Snow avalanches and plants species coexistence.
The successful candidate will develop a combination of field experiments, modeling, and field data analyses to explore how snow avalanches influences plants species coexistence and community diversity. This thesis will build on large-scale data bases on historical records of snow avalanches in the French Alps and expertise in models simulating avalanches at Irstea Grenoble. A combination of field experiments and models will be used to test the effect of snow avalanches on mechanisms controlling species coexistence. An abstract of the proposed PhD is provided below. The PhD candidates will gain from the expertise of the team in vegetation modeling.
Applicants must hold a Master degree in ecology or evolutionary biology. Significant experience in statistical analysis (e.g. in R) is expected. Experience in Geographic Information System (GIS) and field experiments would be an advantage. Strong oral and written communication skills in English are required. Irstea already covers half of the PhD grant and the successful candidates will apply at Grenoble University for the remaining funding of the grant by 27th February 2016 ( details in French),
Please provide a maximum two-page cover letter that explains your motivation, research experience and interest, a CV including publications, and a list of three professional references. Please address your application to: [email protected]

Snow avalanches and plants species coexistence
The objective of this thesis is threefold. First, it consists in analysing the variation of species diversity and functional traits structure with avalanches frequency in two different types of plant communities: mountain forests and grasslands. The relationship has been poorly investigated due to the scarcity of data for avalanche disturbance regimes. Functional traits capture fundamental biophysical trade-offs faced by plants (for instance, resources use, tolerance to abiotic stress or disturbance and colonisation ability). Some functional traits are thus closely connected to coexistence mechanisms and the analysis of their structure will help to tease out the coexistence mechanisms at play. Second, it aims at experimentally test the effect of time since the last avalanche on competitive effect on recruits of three main groups of species (herbs, short broad-leaves trees and conifers). The last objective is to build a vegetation dynamics model based on available data and the current expertise in the EDGE team to test the effect of avalanches frequency on coexistence processes over the long-term.

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