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12 Ph.D. Positions

Requirements

We invite applications from highly motivated candidates who have a background in at least one of the scientific disciplines represented in this Research Training Group. These comprise Wildlife Ecology, Conservation Genetics, Functional Biodiversity Research, Vegetation Ecology, Silviculture, Remote Sensing, Forest Policy, Environmental Sociology, Forest Economics, Environmental Systems Analysis. A strong interest in interdisciplinary research and the willingness to engage in scientific exchange with other disciplines is essential. Each doctoral researcher will develop her/his project in close cooperation with her/his supervisors and the ConFoBi coordination team, and is expected to contribute to the final synthesis process of ConFoBi’s research programme through developing at least one joint interdisciplinary research paper as part of her/his doctoral thesis.

Successful applicants will (1) hold a M.Sc. degree (or equivalent) in a relevant discipline, (2) have experience with methods and/or organisms relevant to the Research Training Group, (3) very good statistical skills and/or knowledge of qualitative research designs (4), are fluent in spoken and written English, and (5) are motivated to join and actively contribute to an inter- and transdisciplinary research training environment.

Applications:

Detailed information on the individual projects and research topics are available here. Candidates are required to indicate which of the twelve projects (A1, A2, B1, B2, B3, B4, B5, B6, C1, C2, D1, D2) they prefer and explain their motivation for choosing it. Interviews will take place in Freiburg between early February and early March 2022.

 Please send your application online (including cover letter, statement of motivation, CV, master’s transcript and contact details of 2 senior references) as a single pdf document (max. size 5mb) by 16 January, 2022 or send your application to confobi@uni-freiburg.de.

 

Selected topic / Bachelors-Thesis: Drivers of Carabid-beetle communities

Review of literature investigating how forest structure and landscape drive abundance and community composition of ground beetles (Carabidae) in temperate forest ecosystem. Type: Literature review: Start: Some time in Wintersemester 21/22; Language: English or German; Contact: sebastian.schwegmann@wildlife.uni-freiburg.de

 

Bachelors / Masters-Thesis: Plant-Insect interactions on selected Black Forest sites

The RTG ConFoBi is offering a Bachelor or Master thesis

Earliest starting date: 15.07.2021

Background:

Insects and plants engage in complex relationships with each other. Plants can serve as food (predation or pollination), as habitats (e.g. in cavities or under the bark) or hiding spots, nesting sites or hunting grounds (e.g. high grass, small holes or on flower petals). Insects on the other hand serve as vectors (for pollen or seeds) or partners (e.g. through parasite predation) for the plants. These interactions are often understudied, and their complexity is poorly understood.

Content of the thesis:

In this study, the student will independently choose from different aspects of plant insect interactions to work on. We are interested in research questions regarding the relationship of

-         plant and insect (mostly cavity nesting Hymenoptera) diversity

-         co-dependence of rare species

-         functional group diversity dependencies

-         compositional differences

-         the effects of dominance on the remaining community

-         plant influence on insect abundance

-         plant insect networks

We are open to offer two Bachelor theses if more than one fitting candidate will apply. Alternatively, one Master thesis is offered if more than two of the above-mentioned questions are engaged.

The data for the theses is largely already available in digital form. Therefor, the content of the thesis will revolve around hypothesis development and statistical analysis, as well as putting the results in context with the literature. Students will be encouraged & given the option to visit some of the field sites to improve their understanding of the ecosystem.

For a Bachelors thesis we are looking for a student who:

▪  has basic experience with plant and insect research

▪  has a good understanding of the ecology of the local forests

▪  is fluent in spoken and written English

▪  has basic experience in ecological data analysis techniques in R

For the Masters thesis we are looking for a student who:

▪  has advanced experience with plant and insect research

▪  has an excellent understanding of the ecology of the local forests

▪  is fluent in spoken and written English

▪  has advanced experience in ecological data analysis techniques in R

▪  is familiar with network analyses

Supervisor: Michael Wohlwend

Mentor: Sara Klingenfuß

Co-Mentor: Nolan Rappa

Application to: Michael.Wohlwend@wildlife.uni-freiburg.de

Application should include 1) a letter of motivation 2) latest certificate 3) CV (only Master thesis) 4) letter of recommendation (optional)

 

 

Bachelors-Thesis: Exploring the effect of deadwood structures on fungal communities

The biological diversity of forest ecosystems is highly dependent on natural processes that generate their structural complexity and dynamics. These processes and subsequently structure and biodiversity are usually reduced by forestry. Therefore, retention measures such as maintaining deadwood are increasingly applied for the conservation of biodiversity in managed forests, including the Black Forest. The total amount of deadwood in forest, however, is not the only variable that plays a role in the biological communities of wood inhabiting species. Fungal communities for example, are composed by generalist and specialist species, with relative abundance been affected by resource availability and environmental conditions.

Content of the thesis

The overall structure of a community is defined by the number of species (species richness) within it, the number of individuals per species (abundance) found within it, the interactions among the species, and features like the ability of the community to return to normal after a disruptive influence. The distribution and abundance of species is often limited by environmental factors such as deadwood structures. The central question for this Bachelor thesis is: How does the distribution of deadwood structure affect fungal species number and abundance? 

The major approach to estimate the effect of a set of variables in communities is to run constrained or unconstrained ordination analysis. Various techniques are available, ranging from direct comparisons to multivariate modeling.

The task of this Bachelor’s thesis will be: I) to prepare a fungal community matrix, an environmental matrix based on deadwood structures and, II) to run an unconstraint ordination analysis for both fungal communities and deadwood structures and a constraint analysis to explore the patterns of fungal communities among deadwood structures.

The ConFoBi datasets of fungi and deadwood structures are available. We expect the bachelor student to further develop and finalize the study question in cooperation with her/his supervisors.

For this Bachelor’s thesis we are looking for a student who:

▪  is familiar with the concept of biological communities, related concepts, and related methods

▪  has a good understanding of the ecology and use of forests in central Europe

▪  has an ecological and taxonomical understanding of fungi in temperate forest

▪  has an ecological and taxonomical understanding of fungi in temperate forest

▪  is fluent in spoken and written English

▪  has some experience in ecological data analysis techniques in R

This project does not require field work and can be started any time. However, the student will be introduced to the field sites on request. Suggested start date: 15 July 2021; earlier or later start possible. Office space available at ConFoBi (Herder Building). Supervision: Max Wieners, Carlos Miguel Landivar, Michael Wohlwend.

Interested? For further information and application email:

Email to: Michael.Wohlwend@Wildlife.Uni-Freiburg.de

Key references:

Bässler, C., Müller, J., Cadotte, M. W., Heibl, C., Bradtka, J. H., Thorn, S., & Halbwachs, H. (2016). Functional response of lignicolous fungal guilds to bark beetle deforestation. Ecological Indicators65, 149-160.

Bässler, C., Müller, J., Dziock, F., & Brandl, R. (2010). Effects of resource availability and climate on the diversity of wood‐decaying fungi. Journal of Ecology98(4), 822-832.

Junninen, K., & Komonen, A. (2011). Conservation ecology of boreal polypores: a review. Biological Conservation144(1), 11-20.

Penttilä, R., Siitonen, J., & Kuusinen, M. (2004). Polypore diversity in managed and old-growth boreal Picea abies forests in southern Finland. Biological conservation117(3), 271-283.

 

 

Masters-Thesis: Exploring the Dark Diversity of the Black Forest

Biodiversity in the Black Forest

The biological diversity of forest ecosystems is highly dependent on natural processes that generate their structural complexity and dynamics. These processes and subsequently structure and biodiversity are usually reduced by forestry. Therefore, retention measures such as maintaining deadwood and habitat trees, are increasingly applied for the conservation of biodiversity in managed forests, including the Black Forest. It is unclear, however, how many of the original old-growth forest-dependent species of the Black Forest survived centuries of multiple use. Some may have been lost, a few may have re-colonized, others may still be present, but very rare. For example, the extinction of the three-toed woodpecker towards the end of the 19th century is explained by a large-scale lack of dead wood due to intensive forest use.

The major hypothesis of ConFoBi is that structural richness of our forests is correlated with biodiversity measures, such as the occurrence, abundance and diversity of various taxa: the more complex is the forest structure, the more species it will sustain. So far, however, we found only little support for this hypothesis in our study system. One explanation might be that species dependent on naturally dynamic forests including old-growth specialists may be too rare on our study plots to find statistical support for our hypothesis, although they still occur in the Black Forest. The Master Thesis: Estimating Dark Diversity Dark Diversity is defined as the absent or undetected proportion of species from a habitat-specific species-pool (Pärtel et al. 2011). The central question for this MSc thesis is: how can this dark diversity be estimated in the Black Forest? The major approach to estimate dark diversity is relating the locally recorded species pool to a (recent or historic) reference species pool for the region. Various techniques are available, ranging from direct comparisons of recorded and reference species lists, to modelling approaches (such as co-occurrence analysis to circumvent reconstruction of reference species pools). The task of this Master’s thesis will be to review existing methods for estimating dark diversity, and assess their suitability for the Black Forest, depending on data availability. The ConFoBi datasets of birds and vascular plants are available as test cases for assessing dark diversity. In addition, the question of the effects of forest structure on dark diversity may be addressed. We expect the MSc student to further develop and finalize the study question in cooperation with her/his supervisors.

Whom we are looking for

For this Master’s thesis we are looking for a student who:

  1. is a conceptual thinker and enjoys theoretical work,
  2. is familiar with the concept of biodiversity and related concepts (e.g. extinction debt, colonization credit, dispersal, community assembly) and methods
  3. has a good understanding of the ecology and use of forests in central Europe,
  4. has a good ecological and taxonomical understanding of vascular plants and/or birds in the Black Forest,
  5. brings a solid basis in ecological modelling techniques and other analyses in R,
  6. is fluent in spoken and written English; knowledge of German is an advantage.
  7. Candidates must have a BSc degree in environmental sciences, forest sciences, ecology, conservation biology or related disciplines. We consider candidates enrolled in MSc programmes of Freiburg University (Faculty of Environment and Natural Resources; Faculty of Biology), however, also external students from other Universities in Germany or abroad are welcome to apply. This project does not require field work and can be started any time. Suggested start date: 1 June 2021; earlier or later start possible. Office space available at ConFoBi (Herder Building). Supervision: various ConFoBi scientists; to be clarified.

Interested? For further information and application email:
Ilse Storch (llse.storch@wildlife.uni-freiburg.de) Professor of Wildlife Ecology and Management Faculty of Environment and Natural Resources, University of Freiburg D-79085 Freiburg, Germany

http://www.wildlife.uni-freiburg.de  https://confobi.uni-freiburg.de

ConFoBi, 28 April 2021

Key references:

Lewis, R.J., Szava-Kovats, R., Pärtel, M. 2016. Estimating dark diversity and species pools: an empirical assessment of two methods. Methods in Ecology and Evolution 7, 104-113. Pärtel, M., Szava-Kovats, R., Zobel, M., 2011. Dark diversity: shedding light on absent species. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 26, 124-128. Storch I., et al. 2020. Evaluating the effectiveness of retention forestry to enhance biodiversity in production forests of Central Europe using an interdisciplinary, multi-scale approach. Ecology and Evolution, 10:1489–1509.  Zobel, M. 2016. The species pool concept as a framework for studying patterns of plant diversity. Journal of Vegetation Science 27, 8-18.

 

Bachelors-Thesis: The effect of a forest composition gradient on the biomass of forest bees

 

Bees in the Family Apidae are the most conspicuous of pollinators in nearly all habitats. Their abundance in forests can be significantly impacted by composition and structure. As biomass is a relative measure of resource availability/abundance, examining Apid biomass along these gradients will yield insights into management practices that promote populations of forest dwelling bees.
Project tasks/timeline:

  • Categorize hymenopteran specimens by body length (weeks 1-6)
  • Determine a representative sample for each Family based on most frequent body length categories (week 7)
  • Measure length and width of specimens in representative samples, dry for ~72 hours, and measure dry weight (week 7)
  • Collate and analyze data using allometric regressions for biomass (weeks 8-12)
  • Submit at the end of week 12

Start date: end January-mid February, duration 3 months. Interested students please contact Nolan Rappa; Email: nolan.rappa@mail.nature.uni-freiburg.de

For other options please check "Further Opportunities"!