[ECOLOG-L] Postdoctoral position – Island Biogeography

Postdoctoral position, Stellenbosch University, South Africa

Postdoctoral position in island biogeography (ecological interaction networks)

Understanding the historic biogeographic processes that shaped current
species distributions, and thus the evolution of different biotas, has
become a central theme in ecology. Such knowledge is crucial for
understanding how biodiversity is generated and maintained and for
developing effective management strategies. Specifically, biogeography is
assumed to play an important role in the structure of biological interaction
webs (mutualisms, antagonisms, etc.) and their co-evolutionary histories.
This assumption remains difficult to test under field conditions.
Truly puzzling and curious examples of biogeographic anomalies exist in
nature; these are ideal systems for testing how biological interactions have
diverged and the extent to which geography explains these patterns. For
example, the diverse and speciose genus Acacia Mill. (sensu stricto;
previously grouped in Acacia subgenus Phyllodineae) consists of about 1012
species, most of them confined to Australia, with a few taxa found in
south-east Asia and Oceania. Two particularly peculiar extra-Australian taxa
are the closely-related island endemics Acacia koa A. Gray found in the
Hawaiian Islands in the Pacific Ocean and A. heterophylla Willd. from La
Réunion Island in the Indian Ocean. This geographic disparity is truly
remarkable, with ca. 18 000 km separating these two insular landmasses. What
makes this even more interesting is that these two species are considered
each other’s closest living relatives. Recent work in our laboratory has
revealed that A. heterophylla from La Réunion Island represents a secondary
colonization event from the Hawaiian Islands and is therefore the same
species as A. koa (Le Roux et al. 2014). These two taxa therefore represent
one of the most astonishing examples of long-distance dispersal.
This project will aim to compare and better understand the ecological
interaction networks of these two island endemics by studying their
interactions with other biota (fungi and insects) in their native ranges
(Hawaii and La Réunion Island). This research will shed light on how quickly
speciation can happen and to what extent geographic isolation can shape
evolutionary trajectories of interaction networks.
Preference will be given to applicants with strong interest in mycology
and/or entomology, molecular ecology, genetics, and evolutionary biology.
Applicants should hold a PhD degree. Preference will be given to candidates
with postdoctoral research experience, demonstrated skills in one or more of
the fields listed above, and an excellent academic track record (i.e.
publications in international journals). Successful candidates will be fully
funded for 1 year, to be extended for an additional 1-2 years depended on
satisfactory performance. An attractive annual salary will be offered along
with additional expenses for research, international travel and subsistence,
and conference attendance. Individuals of all nationalities are eligible.
Applicants should be prepared to spend extended periods in Hawaii and La
Réunion Island.

To apply, please send a CV, contact details for at least two academic
references, and a brief outline of research interests to Dr Jaco Le Roux
(jleroux@sun.ac.za), Prof. David Richardson (rich@sun.ac.za) and Prof. Mike
Wingfield (Mike.Wingfield@up.ac.za) by 16 February 2015. Informal inquiries
are welcome. Review of applications will begin immediately, and short-listed
candidates will be contacted to set up phone/Skype interviews. The envisaged
start date for the project would be March/April 2015.

Further reading:
Le Roux, J.J., Strasberg, D, Rouget, M., Morden, C., Koordom, M. and
Richardson, D.M. (2014) Relatedness defies biogeography: the tale of two
island endemics (Acacia koa and A. heterophylla). New Phytologist 204: 230-242.

Comments are closed.