KU Leuven

Two PhD positions on functional assisted migration of plant species

2024-08-15 (Europe/Brussels)
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KU Leuven is an autonomous university. It was founded in 1425. It was born of and has grown within the Catholic tradition.

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The lab is part of the Division Forest, Nature and Landscape of the KU Leuven. We aim to improve our understanding of the effects of global change on biodiversity and the functioning of terrestrial ecosystems. We combine big data with state-of-the-art modelling techniques, fieldwork and drone imagery to extract patterns and answer ecological questions on large spatial scales. One of our key research areas is to develop global change-robust solutions for the biodiversity crisis.
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Accelerating climate change is pushing ecosystems rapidly beyond their historical boundaries. Traditional conservation approaches aimed at maintaining the status quo are no longer effective. Instead of resisting change, we need to guide the transformation of ecosystems towards preferred ecological outcomes. Assisted migration, which involves the deliberate translocation of species to simulate range expansion under climate change, is a widely proposed adaptive management strategy. However, it remains controversial as it challenges long-established views on biological conservation. The focus on risks, while neglecting the potential benefits, has hindered scientific research on assisted migration and stalled necessary conservation innovation. The costs of inaction are too high, and time is running out. In FUTURENATURE, we will take an innovative functional approach to the assisted migration of plant species. Our focus will shift from minimizing the impact of translocated species to maximizing their contribution to the functioning of novel communities. We aim to advance our understanding of how assisted migration can preserve functioning ecosystems by leveraging extensive observational databases, state-of-the-art joint species distribution models, and a pioneering climate change experiment.
We are seeking two PhD researchers to join the FUTURENATURE project. These researchers will work closely with a third PhD researcher, a postdoctoral researcher, and the project PI, Prof. Koenraad Van Meerbeek. The focus of this position is to investigate the potential of assisted migration of plant species to sustain natural ecosystem functions in the future. While there have been initiatives to use assisted migration to protect endangered species from climate change, the effects of these translocations on the functioning of recipient communities remain largely unknown. There is an urgent need for empirical research to address this gap. The primary objectives of the two PhD projects are to draw insights from past assisted migration efforts and to evaluate the performance of novel grassland communities under future climate change scenarios through a pioneering climate change experiment. The findings will guide future assisted migration programs and contribute to developing resilient ecosystems that can maintain their functions amid changing conditions.


  • You hold an MSc degree in a relevant field (Bioscience Engineering, Biology, Ecology, Environmental Sciences, Physical geography or related field) or you will have obtained it by the time you start working
  • You can demonstrate excellent study results
  • You have a passion for ecology, nature and biodiversity
  • You have a background in plant ecology and ecological modelling
  • You are highly motivated to perform scientific research involving fieldwork, quantitative data analyses and writing scientific publications.
  • You have experience with programming languages such as R or Python. Knowledge of spatial data analyses is a plus
  • You are fluent in English, both written and oral
  • You are a team player with good communication skills


  • A full-time PhD fellowship (4 years) following a positive evaluation after one year
  • The opportunity to obtain a PhD degree at KU Leuven in a topical field of applied environmental sciences and climate change
  • Starting date: October or November 2024
  • The successful candidate will be based at the Division Forest, Nature and Landscape in Leuven (Belgium)
  • Your monthly scholarship amount is calculated according to the scholarship amounts for doctoral scholarship holders on the pay scales for assistants
  • You will receive eco-cheques, a bicycle and a bicycle allowance or a full reimbursement of public transport costs for commuting
  • Collaboration in a young and dynamic international scientific team. A healthy life-work balance is important for us


How to apply?
The application must be in English and include your CV, transcript of records, and a one-page motivation letter explaining how you would approach the position. You can apply for this job via the online application tool
Application deadline?
15th of August 2024 | Notification of selection for interview: second half of August 2024 | Interviews (online): End of August and beginning of September 2024
More information?
Prof. Koenraad Van Meerbeek | koenraad.vanmeerbeek@kuleuven.be | www.sglobelab.com

KU Leuven strives for an inclusive, respectful and socially safe environment. We embrace diversity among individuals and groups as an asset. Open dialogue and differences in perspective are essential for an ambitious research and educational environment. In our commitment to equal opportunity, we recognize the consequences of historical inequalities. We do not accept any form of discrimination based on, but not limited to, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, age, ethnic or national background, skin colour, religious and philosophical diversity, neurodivergence, employment disability, health, or socioeconomic status. For questions about accessibility or support offered, we are happy to assist you at this email address.

Dettagli del lavoro

Two PhD positions on functional assisted migration of plant species
Datore di lavoro
Oude Markt 13 Lovanio, Belgio
Scadenza candidatura
2024-08-15 23:59 (Europe/Brussels)
2024-08-15 23:59 (CET)
Tipo di lavoro
Salva lavoro

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Informazioni sul datore di lavoro

KU Leuven is an autonomous university. It was founded in 1425. It was born of and has grown within the Catholic tradition.

Visita la pagina del datore di lavoro