Predicting how species and ecosystems will respond to global environmental change is a central goal in ecology. As controlled experiments cannot fully address this goal, there is a clear need for innovative statistical and machine learning methods to analyse ecological field data.
In this PhD project you will be developing and testing novel machine learning algorithms that can be applied to reveal causal relationships from observational ecological data. Ecological monitoring data are typically characterised by multiple spatial and temporal dependencies. For example, due to auto-ecological processes such as reproduction and dispersal, species’ distribution patterns are often more clustered than would be expected based on abiotic gradients. A main challenge in this project will be to develop machine learning algorithms able to deal with such dependencies. After testing, you will apply the algorithms to large-scale ecological monitoring data in order to reveal causal relationships between species’ occurrence and underlying drivers.
The project is a collaboration between the Environmental Science group of the Institute for Water and Wetland Research (IWWR) and the Data Science group of the Institute for Computing and Information Sciences. You will be working in both groups, at the interface of ecology and machine learning.
The main focus of the Environmental Science group of IWWR is on quantifying, understanding and predicting human impacts on the environment. To that end, we employ a variety of research methods, including process-based modelling, meta-analyses, field studies and lab work. In our research we cover multiple stressors, species and spatial scales, searching for overarching principles that can ultimately be applied to better underpin environmental management and biodiversity conservation. The Data Science group’s research concerns the design and understanding of (probabilistic) machine learning methods, with a keen eye on applications in other scientific domains as well as industry. The Data Science section is part of the vibrant and growing Institute for Computing and Information Sciences (iCIS). iCIS is consistently ranked as the top Computer Science department in the Netherlands (National Research Review of Computer Science 2002-2008 and 2009-2014).
What we expect from you:
You have an MSc degree (for the PhD position) or a PhD (for the postdoc position) in natural science, computer science, mathematics, or a related discipline. You are open-minded, with a strong interest in multidisciplinary research and a solid background in mathematics, and you are highly motivated to perform scientific research. As you will be working in two different research groups, you need to be flexible, communicative and able to work in a multidisciplinary team.
What we have to offer:
employment: 1.0 FTE;
in addition to the salary: an 8% holiday allowance and an 8.3% end-of-year bonus;
PhD: the starting salary is €2,222 per month on a full-time basis, the salary will increase to €2,840 per month in the fourth year (p scale);
Postdoc: the starting salary is €2,588 per month on a full-time basis, the salary will increase to €4,084 per month in the fourth year (scale 10);
duration of the contract: PhD 4 years, Postdoc 3 years;
your performance will be evaluated after 18 months. If the evaluation is positive, the contract will be extended;
you will be classified as a PhD Candidate (promovendus) or Postdoctoral Researcher 4 (onderzoeker) in the Dutch university job-ranking system (UFO).