ISEECI Postdoctoral Fellowship in Biotic Community Shifts in California

The University of California’s newly founded Institute for the Study of Ecological Effects of Climate Impacts (ISEECI) invites applications for a Fellowship in Community Ecology related to climate change in California. The successful candidate will join a multi-disciplinary team of more than two-dozen UC faculty and graduate students using the university’s Natural Reserve System (NRS), the world’s largest network of university-run ecological field stations, as a laboratory for documenting and analyzing climate related change in California’s diverse ecosystems—past, present, and future.

Research by the successful candidate will address questions that leverage the unique opportunities provided by the widely distributed, taxonomically diverse, and ecologically protected sites of the University of California Natural Reserve System (UC NRS). The goals of this research are to detect, quantify and forecast biotic responses to climate change and make projections of how future climate change could impact communities of the NRS reserves. Identifying biotic communities and geographic locations that are especially vulnerable to climatic change is a particular focus.

The Fellow will be hired at the postdoctoral level and will coordinate heterogeneous data sources for diverse organisms, potentially from both aquatic and terrestrial habitats. The resulting database will provide a framework for archiving future data collected at NRS reserves and yield a climate atlas of the NRS network. The successful candidate will be expected to develop their own research project within these themes, working on or near reserves or other sites in the gradient and potentially other UC reserves as well.

Examples of important research questions that could be addressed include (1) Does compositional turnover along climatic gradients differ between aquatic and terrestrial organisms, or between plants and animals?  Are some groups more sensitive to climate than others, or sensitive to different aspects of climate (e.g., temperature vs. precipitation)? (2) What are the functional consequences of potential community changes, for example increased dominance by species with different organismal traits?

The successful candidate should have a Ph.D. by the start of the position; preference will be given to candidates with skills in data analysis (e.g., meta-analysis or Hierarchical statistical modeling), niche modeling, and/or the development of products (e.g., publications, data sets, maps) that will be widely available to the academic community and the public in the near future. The position is for one year, renewable for a second year subject to review of progress and pending availability of funds. The fellowship appointment may be at any UC campus as appropriate based on the fellow’s experience, available mentors, and resources. This position includes opportunities for collaboration across the UC campuses, career development, and research skill development.

Applications must include a CV, a cover letter briefly describing the candidate’s research interests, intended mentor(s) and names and contact information of three references. Potential mentors and their research interests are listed at Applicants should contact prospective faculty mentors, and the mentor should submit a separate letter of support.

Email application materials may be submitted to Becca Fenwick ( Applications will be reviewed beginning on October 1, 2015 with the appointment beginning as early as November1, 2015.

Salary is commensurate with experience. The position includes a research budget for equipment, supplies and travel among UC campuses and reserves. The University of California is an affirmative action/equal opportunity employer and is supportive of dual career couples.

Potential Mentors:

  • Laurel Fox, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UC Santa Cruz.
  • Jennifer Gremer, Evolution and Ecology, UC Davis.
  • Susan Harrison, Dept. of Environmental Science and Policy, UC Davis.  
  • Andrew Latimer, Dept. of Plant Sciences, UC Davis.
  • Jon Shurin, Ecology, Behavior, Evolution, UC San Diego.
  • Ellen Simms, Integrative Biology UC Berkeley.

Mentors and project details:

Laurel Fox
Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UC Santa Cruz.

The climate history of a region may be preserved in the rings of woody plants, because their growth reflects the favorability of climate, including access to resources, such as water. However, these climate signals also can be significantly altered, or even eliminated, by other factors affecting plant growth, such as species interactions. Over-coming this problem necessitates that the wood rings of several species be sampled at each site. One potential post-doctoral project would be to analyze climate histories at key sites using tree-ring analyses. 

She seeks to understand plant responses to variable and changing environments and the implications of those responses for populations, communities, and ecosystems. Therefore, the research lies at the interface of physiology, population biology, ecology, and evolution and employs a variety of methods from these fields to scale individual responses to broader scale patterns. Current projects are focused on understanding how variability at different biological scales (individuals, populations, communities) affects responses to climate change, identifying traits that buffer responses to change and whether they will be sufficient under future conditions, and projecting dynamics under future scenarios to identify species and communities that will be more vulnerable or resilient to change.

Susan Harrison
Dept. of Environmental Science and Policy, UC Davis.

Research in the Harrison lab seeks to understand the processes that shape and maintain plant species diversity at the landscape scale, where small-scale forces such as competition and facilitation interact with large-scale forces such as niche evolution and dispersal. Recent research relevant to the ISEECI mission focuses on the mechanisms and consequences of climate-driven loss of grassland diversity.

Andrew Latimer
Dept. of Plant Sciences, UC Davis.

Our group studies how environmental variation affects plant communities, populations, species and lineages. We are especially interested in how plant populations and communities respond to change — rapid major disturbance such as fire, as well as more gradual changes in climate. At the shortest time scales, we are focusing on field data that documents how California plant communities and populations respond to drought and fire. We also use experimental approaches to study how plant species (native and invasive) respond to environmental gradients and novel conditions. At the longest time scales, we are also interested in how lineages change as they encounter novel conditions and diversify. I have done a lot of work using hierarchical statistical modeling to study species distribution patterns across time and space, and more generally to integrate data from diverse sources, and am looking forward to using these tools through ISEECI.

Jon Shurin
Ecology, Behavior, Evolution, UC San Diego.

He is an aquatic community and ecosystem ecologist investigating the combined impacts of climate, fish introductions and fertilization by atmospheric nitrogen on mountain lakes.  His lab has an ongoing projects sampling lakes across elevational gradients in Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks and works out of SNARL, Yosemite and White Mountain NRS stations. Students and post-docs combine field surveys of lakes with mesocosm and lab experiments to understand the effects of climate on the roles of top-down and bottom-up processes in generating ecological and evolutionary variability.

Ellen Simms
Integrative Biology UC Berkeley.

She studies mutualisms, with the legume-rhizobium system as our current focus. She is interested in the evolution of cooperation between mutualists and how these interactions affect the ability of mutualist-dependent taxa to disperse successfully in response to environmental change.

Erin Wilson Rankin
Dept of Entomology, UC Riverside
The Rankin Lab group investigates species interactions and their effects on trophic dynamics and ecosystem services within the contexts of invasion biology, community ecology and evolutionary ecology. We are particularly interested in how climate change influences pollination services through phenological mismatch or the promotion of invasive species. Such disruptions in tropic interactions may have subsequent cascading effects on ecosystem health and stability.  In comparison to historical data, the current drought conditions facing California have drastically altered the phenology of annual plants, including species endemic to California’s desert and sage scrub communities. One potential post-doc project could incorporate historic distribution, phenological and climate data with new surveys to examine the impacts of drought and climate change in relation to pollinator communities and pollination services.