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Open position: Postdoc in Modelling Species' Range Expansions in Marine Environments


The Department of Marine Sciences at the University of Gothenburg invites applications for a Post Doctoral Researcher to work on Modelling Species' Range Expansions in Marine Environments.

Subject area description
Climate change related effects commonly induce changes in species distributions. Under a warmer climate it is expected that species distributions change to fit their optimal temperature range. Climate-induced movement will, in most cases, have demographic consequences, and populations at the front of the expansion wave will have low genetic variation. Earlier models show that at the front of an expanding population genetic diversity is controlled by local population size, migration rate, degree of fragmentation of the expanding population and strength of natural selection. However, many of the assumptions in the existing models are overly simple for most wild species (e.g. haploid species, fully sexual or fully clonal reproduction, non-overlapping generations, symmetric stepping-stone or Gaussian dispersal functions, and, in many cases, homogeneous and temporally stable environments). In the project in which the postdoc will work, we aim to deliver new and adequate modelling tools, with which it will be possible to analyze size, quality and structure of the available habitat (“green infrastructure”) needed to mitigate loss of genetic variation during species movements largely induced by human activities.

Empirical genome-wide genetic data are available for several marine species that recently (8000 years ago) expanded their distributions over the steep salinity gradient shaping the Baltic Sea ecosystem, each species with its current range margin at a specific position along the gradient. This postdoc project aims to address two questions: (i) How did expansion 8000 years ago change the genetic structure and content of the populations today, taking into account the impact of gene flow, habitat structure and reproductive biology of the species? (ii) What will happen with these already marginal populations under the increased stress from climate change (warmer and lower salinity)? First, theoretical models will be constructed and iterated. Second, the models will be parameterized with empirical data for target species, and model results will be validated against the spatial patterns of genetic diversity within and between the populations of the target species. Thereafter the results will be used to try to predict future distributions of these species under different climate scenarios and habitat structure (e.g. availability of marine reserves and "green infrastructure").

Job assignments
The candidate will join an international team with both theoretical and empirical competences, working on the evolutionary biology of marine species including the genetics of recently expanded species in the Baltic Sea transition zone. The team is based at the Department of Marine Sciences, with permanent working places both at the research station Tjärnö Marine Laboratory, and at the campus in Gothenburg. Intense collaboration has been established with University of Sheffield for many years.

The candidate is expected, in collaboration with the rest of the team, to perform the modelling work on species’ range expansions including development of the mathematical model, implementing it using individual-based spatially-explicit computer simulations, and analyzing model results both numerically and analytically. The work also includes tests of the model by comparing model results with the available empirical data on present species’ distributions and their spatial genetic patterns using standard software and custom scripts, but also using novel scripts specifically developed within the team to ease and improve the model-data comparison. In addition, the candidate is expected to present the results of the analyses in manuscript(s) and at conferences, and communicate the findings at various dissemination activities. The candidate is also expected to take part in other research-related activities at the department, and within the research group in particular.

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Apply by: 2020-04-30