The Forest Ecosystems research group at Irstea Nogent-sur-Vernisson (www.irstea.fr/en/research/research-units/efno) under the supervision of Christophe Baltzinger and Björn Reineking invites applications for a PhD position on epizoochorous dispersal by wild ungulates.
The successful candidate will take part in our long term ongoing project on seed dispersal by large ungulates and more specifically in the COSTAUD project consortium. The PhD will develop an integrated mechanistic approach to model the epizoochorous dispersal process in the spatially structured Domaine National de Chambord. The thesis will include field experiments, animal GPS monitoring, field data collection and modeling to explore the different phases of the dispersal process. An abstract of the proposed PhD is provided below.
Applicants should have (1) an MSc degree in ecology or related sciences, (2) interest in plant ecology (botany), behavioural ecology and plant-animal interactions, (3) knowledge of modeling and programming in R, (4) GIS and database management, (5) excellent knowledge of the English language in speaking and writing and (6) a valid driver license.
Please provide a maximum two-page cover letter that explains your motivation, research experience and interest, a CV including publications and a list of current and previous supervisors. Please address your application before May 18, 2016 to [email protected] . Start date is fall 2016 for a 3 year period.
Epizoochorous dispersal by wild ungulates shapes plant response to fast changing environments
Dispersal is a key process shaping the dynamics of spatially structured populations. This process is central for the design of the “Trame Verte et Bleue” (TVB), the French national public policy designed to facilitate species circulation and to stop the current biodiversity crisis. It belongs to a Paneuropean Ecological Network, comprising 54 countries. TVB is part of the action plan that resulted from the international biodiversity conference, Nagoya in 2010.
The knowledge of plant dispersal abilities allows predicting how these species may cope with and track rapid and drastic changes in both habitat and environmental conditions. Numerous plants interact with animal vectors to ascertain their dispersal. The distance and efficiency of seed dispersal rely on the plant and vector traits, the combined effect of transport duration by animals, animal movements and seed ability to germinate once released. Whereas endozoochory has been intensively studied, epizoochory, i.e seed dispersal via animal furs, feathers, hooves and legs, remains rather unrecognized. We recently demonstrated that epizoochory acted as a stronger ecological filter on regional flora than did endozoochory (Albert et al. 2015). Plants in temperate environments are rarely dispersed by single vectors, whether biotic or not. We also stressed that seeds without any specific adaptations to be externally dispersed could be found in fur and hooves of wild ungulates and further showed that the dispersed species pool is probably underestimated (Picard and Baltzinger 2012). The colonization of suitable habitat patches for a given plant generally concerns rare dispersal events, potentially disconnected from its main dispersal vector (Higgins and Richardson 1999). For this PhD thesis and within the COSTAUD project, we will utilize an integrated mechanistic approach to model the epizoochorous dispersal process in the spatially structured Domaine National de Chambord. The results will be applied in ecological engineering to restore and rehabilitate degraded ecosystems (Rico et al. 2014).