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PhD project – Eco-evolutionary and conservation dynamics of desert succulents (Lithops spp.) from southern Africa

09 Jan 2023 10:30 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

The Integrative Wildlife Conservation lab at Trent University, in collaboration with the Lithops Research and Conservation Foundation, is offering a unique PhD project on the eco-evolutionary and conservation dynamics of Lithops spp., a genus of small succulent plants occurring across desert landscapes in southern Africa. In the wild, Lithops are susceptible to human collection, habitat loss and climate change, and currently there are important knowledge gaps related to Lithops phylogeny and ecology that are impacting rigorous conservation status assessment and protection. The project will involve several critical facets, first consisting of Lithops genome sequencing to support re-assessment of genus phylogeny and evolutionary linkages. Once species/subspecies status is better established, the project may undertake a variety of directions involving fieldwork, including: 1) Using hyperspectral imaging to assess plant health and composition in relation to local environmental conditions; 2) Remote sensing to determine habitat suitability needs and potential for recolonization; 3) Population and meta-population viability analysis to assess scenarios for long-term persistence; and 4) Species distribution modeling to better understand potential responses of populations to climate change. The model for fieldwork will be L. schwantesii, which is among the most widespread and best-studied Lithops species in Namibia. The PhD student will have the opportunity to develop specific research questions within the scope of the larger project.

Successful candidates MUST have an MSc in Ecology, Conservation Biology, or related field, demonstrated evidence of peer-reviewed publications, strong lab and field skills, and an interest in working collaboratively within a large and diverse research group. Additional desirable qualifications include DNA sequencing, bioinformatics, remote sensing and GIS analysis, and working in remote field conditions. 

To apply, send a cover letter, curriculum vitae, unofficial academic transcript, and contact information for 3 references to: Dennis Murray (dennismurray@trentu.ca).

For additional details, see www.dennismurray.ca and www.lithopsfoundation.com.

The position will be filled as soon as a suitable candidate is found.

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