Postdoctoral Research Fellowship on risk modelling the dispersal and spread of alien conifers in New Zealand

Wilding conifers
Application Date (COB): 
Tuesday, 15 August 2017 - 5:00pm

We are seeking to appoint a Postdoctoral Research Fellow to develop risk models of the dispersal and spread of alien conifers in New Zealand. The candidate will be join of one of the most productive plant invasion research groups in New Zealand under the leadership of Professor Philip Hulme.

The Bio-Protection Research Centre, a New Zealand Centre of Research Excellence hosted by Lincoln University, finds innovative, natural and sustainable solutions to protect New Zealand's plant-based, productive ecosystems from pests, diseases and weeds. We are now embarking of an ambitious five-year multidisciplinary research programme examining the ecology, impacts and management of invasive alien conifer species in New Zealand. The research involves researchers at Lincoln University, the University of Canterbury, Scion and Landcare Research drawing on a wide range of expertise from plant and soil ecology, spatial and economic modelling as well as different management approaches.

Find out more about the project background


Introduced conifers are the backbone of commercial forestry in New Zealand, worth about $5B a year. However, invasion by wilding conifers is arguably New Zealand’s most serious and intractable weed problem. Wildings are thought to occupy ~1.8 million ha and may invade 20% of our total land area within 35 years. Wildings have profound impacts on our national biological heritage, ecosystem services, economy and cultural values. As a result, land managers, government agencies and community trusts collectively spend over $11M each year managing wildings. Despite these efforts, the area invaded is increasing by ~6% per year. We are now at a critical juncture: more management may not accomplish long-term or large-scale gains in control of wildings or maintenance of our biological heritage. A smarter, more cost-effective approach to wilding management is now urgently needed.

A major new five-year research programme aims to resolve where and when management can minimise the spread and negative impacts of wilding conifers, while minimising costs. We will combine research on invasion dynamics and management interventions to ensure future management efforts can slow or reverse wilding conifer invasion by:

  1. increasing the effectiveness of wilding control through early detection,
  2. maximising gains in biological heritage and ecosystem services from wilding management, and
  3. forecasting the optimal combination of current and future interventions to achieve desirable long-term outcomes while minimising costs and negative impacts of both invaders and their management.

We will work closely with on-the-ground operations and across government to stop the accelerating impacts of wildings across New Zealand.

Position description

The Postdoctoral Fellow will quantify intraspecific and interspecific variation in alien conifer seed dispersal to establish which species in New Zealand have greatest dispersal potential and whether certain provenances are more risky than others.  Research will identify trade-offs in dispersal risk and magnitude of variation across species and provenances. They will then integrate dispersal parameters with existing dispersal models to derive a quantitative consolidated risk index. Subsequently they will analyse spatiotemporal population structure of existing conifer invasions. This step will identify the role of landscape, land-use history, and propagule pressure on geographic variation in wilding population growth; as such, this activity is a space for time-independent evaluation of both dispersal and establishment risk. By integrate the consolidated risk index and retrospective spread assessment, they will assesses the relative roles of species and environmental parameters in spread risk. These streams of information will be used to generate spatially explicit predictions of dispersal and establishment risk. Results will be integral to the wider project and will feed in to economic and decision support models being developed by other teams.

The position is funded for a period of 4 years, starting in 2017. Applicants will be required to have:

  • a PhD in ecology or a related field
  • research experience in the area of plant invasion ecology.
  • strong skills in quantitative data analysis, particularly statistical modelling
  • knowledge of spatial ecology and Geographical Information Systems
  • a record of peer-reviewed publications.,

As travel between field sites may be a feature of this position, a current driver’s licence is also required.

Apply now

Applications should consist of: a) a cover letter expressing interest in position, your suitability for the post and date of availability, b) a CV including publication list, c) a statement of research interests, and d) contact details for three referees.

Closing date for applications is 15 August 2017.