Two-year fixed-term position for a researcher in community ecology at EcoFoG

The EcoFoG research unit invites applications for a 2-year fixed-term researcher position in community ecology. The successful candidate will collaborate with Heidy Schimann (Biogeco, Cestas, France) and Jérôme Orivel (EcoFoG, Kourou, French Guiana) on the reconstruction of interspecific interactions from eDNA metabarcoding data sets. The fellow will be based at EcoFoG in Kourou, French Guiana.

Project description:

The objectives of the EcoFoG research unit (Ecology of French Guianan RainForest) are to better understand the functioning of tropical forests under anthropogenic and climatic constraints (global changes), but also to produce knowledge to better manage and conserve them. The Research unit is organized into five research axes: Evolution and Molecular Chemical Ecology (EECM), Biodiscovery, Usages and Technology (BUT), Processes and Ecosystemic Services (PSE), Patterns and Assembling of Communities (PAC), Development and Functioning of Plants (DFP).
Integrated into the PAC research axis, your work will be to investigate interspecific biotic interactions in communities of tropical terrestrial organisms.
Biotic interactions play fundamental roles in the functioning of ecosystems and it is expected that the ongoing global changes should strongly modify them partly due to cascading effects in species extinctions. These negative impacts are expected to be even stronger in hyperdiverse communities, suggesting that tropical ecosystems are particularly vulnerable. In Amazonia, including French Guiana, IPCC reports predict longer and more intense dry seasons, susceptible to strongly change the abundance, distribution and activity of plant and animal species. Moreover, the current demographic growth in French Guiana is an additional pressure and results in the modifications of natural ecosystems into agricultural or urbanized areas.
Yet, in these ecosystems, the interactions between species remain still poorly studied, especially those involving microorganisms or soil fauna. This lack of knowledge (’Linnean and Eltonian shortfalls’) is a major bottleneck hampering any reliable predicted responses of biological communities and of their interaction networks to various constraints. The challenge is thus to fully benefit from high- throughput sequencing approaches to be able to build significant and relevant ecological networks, and to better predict the modifications generated by environmental changes. You will be in charge of analyzing and publishing one already available dataset. It includes eDNA metabarcoding of soil fauna and microbiota in coastal savannahs and pastures, together with metadata such as soil physicochemical and plant characteristics or land uses. The aims will be:
-  investigate the role of environment vs. biotic variables structuring these communities;
-  reconstruct interaction networks, both mutualistic (positive co-occurrences) and antagonistic (negative co-occurrences);
-  analyze the impact of land-use change (conversion to pastures) on the assembly rules of soil communities and how it translates into changes of networks interactions.
In particular, you will test the hypothesis of functional convergence of interaction networks in soil communities as a response to land-use changes (comparison of soil communities networks in natural vs. pastured savannahs, vs. forest transformed into pastures, vs. natural forests). This will be facilitated by aggregating data already available and coming from forests in the area (side-projects from collaborators of the Labex CEBA).

Qualifications: The candidate should hold a PhD in Biology / Ecology and have an emerging track record of high-quality publications and data analysis. Good skills in community ecology, functional ecology and interaction networks are mandatory, bioinformatics and laboratory expertise in molecular biology are also welcomed. French language skills are welcomed, but not required.

Work environment: EcoFoG, located in Kourou, is the largest research unit in French Guiana (about 80 people). You will join the “Patterns and Assembling of Communities” research axis, which objective is to understand how communities are assembled and how they can be modified facing environmental constraints and global change. EcoFoG is a member of the Laboratoire of excellence CEBA (Center for the study of biodiversity in Amazonia) which gathers a network of internationally-recognized French research teams (https://www.labex-ceba.fr) and seeks to understand all the facets of biodiversity in Amazonia. The candidate will fully benefit from strong and historical collaborations between EcoFoG, BIOGECO, EDB and ECOLAB whom members have a strong experience in community ecology, functional ecology, network ecology and eDNA data.

Duration and salary: The position is due to start in December 2022 for 2 years. The gross salary will depend on experience (2,500 - 3,100 €/month, not negotiable).

Application procedure: Applicants should send a full academic CV, research statement and a cover letter to Heidy Schimann (heidy.schimann at inrae.fr) and Jérôme Orivel (Jerome.orivel at cnrs.fr). Up to three reference letters would be appreciated, but are not mandatory. The application deadline is November 20th 2022.

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