Research Associate (Ecological Modelling)

Department of Geography

London, Strand Campus


  • Posted on: 11th Feb 2021
  • Salary: £38,304 Per annum, Including London Weighting
  • REF: 015926
  • Closes: 07th March 2021
  • Contract Type: Fixed-Term/Contract
  • Hours: Full Time

Job description

The Department of Geography at King’s College London invites applications for a postdoctoral research associate (PDRA) in ecological modelling. The post will be based in the research team of Dr Jane Catford at KCL’s Strand Campus in central London, and will be one of four new PDRA appointments.

The position will be funded by a 5-year European Research Council Consolidator Grant (ALIENIMPACTS). ALIENIMPACTS aims to develop an approach for predicting impacts of alien plant invasions on plant community diversity, using temperate grasslands as a model system.

This post will help to develop new models, and a modelling approach, to predict the establishment and abundance of invading plant species in a site, and the resulting impact on plant community diversity. Core research for the PDRA will include: further developing and empirically validating a mechanistic model of invasion impacts using data from field experiments; and generalising the model to predict current and future impacts of “natural” alien plant invasions in grasslands in the UK, Czech Republic and SE Australia. An initial version of the mechanistic model has been built and applied to experiments at Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve, one of the oldest Long-Term Ecological Research sites in the USA. The post involves: working with a wide range of data and collaborators, including practitioners; model development, coding, parameterisation and validation; and a willingness and ability to work with a wide range of modelling approaches and tools, such as mechanistic niche modelling, dynamic range models, coupled niche-population models, agent based modelling, and GIS.

Key collaborators include Dr Laura Graham (U. Birmingham), Dr Adam Clark (U. Graz), Prof. David Tilman (U. Minnesota), Prof. Petr Pysek (Czech Academy of Science), Prof. James Bullock (UK CEH) and other members of the ALIENIMPACTS team. There will opportunities for additional related research.

The Department of Geography is committed to equality, diversity and inclusion, and has a vibrant, friendly and international research culture, which includes approximately 30 postdocs and 100 PhD students. The PDRA will be part of an active group of ecologists in the department, and will have many opportunities for professional development including funding to attend meetings and workshops, and opportunities to co-mentor students and collaborate with other scientists and groups.

The post will be responsible to Jane Catford. The project and position begin in April 2021, but a slightly delayed start date will be considered if required. For questions or further information, please email

Contract Type

This post will be offered on an fixed-term contract for 36 months (3 years).

This is advertised as a full-time post (100% full time equivalent), but flexible working arrangements will be considered.

Key responsibilities

  • Co-develop, parameterise and evaluate mechanistic models of invasion impacts
  • Design and run simulation modelling experiments, and analyse results using cutting-edge statistical and modelling tools, such as mixed effects models and structural equation models
  • Liaise and collaborate with key collaborators and other providers of data used in the project
  • Source, compile, manage and analyse data in R and GitHub
  • Prepare and publish peer-reviewed scientific publications
  • Attend and present research at national and international conferences
  • Contribute positively to an inclusive, diverse and collegial working environment, including co-mentoring (with Jane Catford) undergraduate, MSc and PhD students

The above list of responsibilities may not be exhaustive, and the post holder will be required to undertake such tasks and responsibilities as may reasonably be expected within the scope and grading of the post.
Skills, knowledge, and experience

Essential criteria

  • PhD in quantitative ecology, applied mathematics, computer science or related fields
  • Evidence of ability to publish peer-reviewed papers in internationally recognised journals
  • Ability to manage and integrate large, diverse datasets, and conduct, interpret and understand common ecological statistics in R
  • Ability to work independently and as part of a team
  • Proficient with and experienced in quantitative methods and ecological modelling, such as mechanistic models and species distribution models
  • Experience with, or the necessary computing skills to learn, some of the following types of approaches: partial differential equations, hierarchical modelling (e.g. generalised linear mixed effects models), path analysis (e.g. structural equation modelling).
  • Experience with, or the necessary computing skills to learn, project management in GitHub, GIS, development of a web application (such as in R Shiny)
  • Commitment to working collaboratively and respectfully with colleagues at all levels of experience, and willingness to be an active participant in lab group activities, such as lab meetings, lab projects and mentoring of students
  • Effective oral and written communication skills

Desirable criteria

  • Knowledge of invasion, community, global change and plant functional ecology
  • Experience working with large datasets and data repostitories

*Please note that this is a PhD level role but candidates who have submitted their thesis and are awaiting award of their PhDs will be considered. In these circumstances the appointment will be made at Grade 5, spine point 30 with the title of Research Assistant. Upon confirmation of the award of the PhD, the job title will become Research Associate and the salary will increase to Grade 6.

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