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We are looking for a highly motivated candidate to apply for a 3-year PhD position in wildlife population modelling. The PhD position is part of the ongoing projects on the adaptive strategies and population dynamics of polar seabirds under environmental constraints, within the framework of two polar programs from IPEV (137) and AWI (MARE) hosted at the Department of Polar Biology of the Centre Scientifique de Monaco (CSM), and at the Institut Pluridisciplinaire Hubert Curien (IPHC-UMR7178 CNRS/University of Strasbourg). The successful candidate will be part of a multi-disciplinary research team at the CSM and at IPHC, covering empirical, theoretical, and statistical expertise in population ecology, but also in mathematical and technological/instrumental expertise.

The candidate will use existing and unique long-term time series datasets in penguins generated by our Life Observatories (based on e.g. automatic identification and camera systems, biological samplings, empirical observations), as well as environmental datasets (local/global climate and oceanographic variables). The priority will be given to the longest time series of more than 20 years in king penguins from Crozet archipelago and 15 years in Adélie penguins from Adélie Land. Preliminary investigations might be performed on king and emperor penguin populations from Kerguelen and Adélie/Maud Lands, respectively.

The main objectives of the thesis are the following:

  • to evaluate penguin populations’ life history and phenotypic traits, and the inter-individual heterogeneity within the populations,
  • to assess the consequences of environmental changes on these traits,
  • to model the impact of these changes on demographic parameters and population trends.

We aim at developing new predictive models of population responses to ecosystem changes to project how seabird populations will adapt to rapid changes of their environment. To develop these predictive models, the candidate is expected to combine several approaches, i.e. classical CMR multi-state/-event modelling, demographic-selection modelling, and if needed machine learning and neural networks.

Hence, by the end of the project, we aim to explore the borderlines and thresholds of penguins’ adaptive capabilities beyond which the populations could collapse.


Qualification requirements

The ideal candidate for this position should have the following skills:

  • strong background and interest in population dynamics and modelling (e.g. a record in quantitative or theoretical methods),
  • solid knowledge in behavioural and evolutionary ecology,
  • demonstrable skills in at least one scientific scripting language (e.g. R, Matlab, or Python). Knowledge of MySQL databases is a plus,
  • good scientific communication skills, written and oral, in English. French is a plus (but not a strict requirement).

The candidate should be highly motivated, creative, and able to work in an interdisciplinary team, as well as independently.

The applicant will be eager - if not already experienced - to perform fieldwork in harsh conditions (Antarctic/subantarctic), to handle wildlife (penguins), and to engage in lab work processing biological samples in the field. Data acquisition within the framework of the Life Observatories involves a great number of sophisticated electronic systems and devices. The candidate should thus be willing to learn basic instrumentation and hardware debugging techniques (the training will be provided by the researchers of the team).


Supervisory team and administrative information

The project will be supervised by Dr. Céline Le Bohec (CSM and IPHC-CNRS/UNISTRA) in strong interaction with researchers from the Department of Polar Biology of the CSM, the IPHC-CNRS/UNISTRA, the WHOI, and the CEFE-CNRS Montpellier. The applicant will mainly be based at the CSM (Monaco), with some periods at the IPHC-CNRS/UNISTRA (Strasbourg). The applicant will have to perform fieldwork in subantarctic islands and/or Antarctica over the austral summer seasons for data collection through polar programs of IPEV (137) and AWI (MARE).

The position will start October 1st 2020. Only applicant with a MSc or equivalent degree can apply. The scholarship will be 1670 euros net per months for 3 years. The successful applicant will be registered at the Doctoral School “Sciences de la Vie et de la Santé” ED414 of the University of Strasbourg.


How to apply

Applications should be sent to Céline Le Bohec ( and Denis Allemand ( with a motivation letter (including a statement of interests and experience in modelling and its tools (statistics/mathematics, computer science), population dynamics, and evolutionary biology), a full CV (including list of publications, if any), a writing sample (thesis or scientific articles), the MSc (or equivalent degree) records, and contact details of at least two references. We will continue to consider applications until the position is filled.