PhD contract in Terrestrial (Island) Ecology within an ERC AdG

Job description: The Mediterranean Institute of Advanced Studies (IMEDEA) offers a PhD position to support the research activities in the context of the European Research Council (ERC) project IslandLife (ID: 101054177), led by Prof. Anna Traveset. This is a 5-year research project funded by the ERC that will be developed at the Terrestrial Ecology lab, within the Department of Global Change and Oceanography of IMEDEA.

The tentative title of the PhD thesis will be:

“The connection between network structure and ecosystem functioning: a mechanistic approach to understand the role of the pollinator community in assisting with plant reproduction” 


Pollinators provide critical ecosystem functions by pollinating plant species and structuring plant communities, especially in the tropics. Plant-pollinator interactions at the community level can be studied with network approach, which provides insights into how the mutualistic interactions are structured across the community. These structural properties of networks are relatively well-studied, yet we have little understanding how network structure translates into ecosystem functions. This PhD project will aim to understand the contribution of pollinator species towards plant reproductive performance thereby shaping plant community composition. We propose to use a multi-pronged approach including plant and pollinator traits, phylogenies and abundances at the community level to improve our understanding of how network structure (global, meso-, and micro-level properties) explain functional performance of pollinators, and how this performance varies over time.

We will study these detailed mechanistic relationships between plants and pollinators in a relatively small community on the tropical island of Frégate in the Seychelles, where we have detailed pre-existing knowledge of the plant and pollinator community. The research will consist of strong empirical and theoretical components, which require a keen interest in field work and modelling.


This PhD will be co-supervised by project partner Dr Christopher Kaiser-Bunbury, Centre of Ecology and Conservation, University of Exeter, Penryn, UK. Part of the PhD may involve extended visits to the UK to work closely with Dr Kaiser-Bunbury.