Postdoc in Tropical Forest Evolution and Biodiversity, Edinburgh

Fixed term for 24 months, available from 1 February 2013

This post is part of the NERC funded project ‘Niche Evolution of South American Trees and its Consequences’. The project aims to make a fundamental advance in our knowledge of the processes that have created patterns of diversity in the tropics by gaining a better understanding of the evolutionary timing and rate of biome switching in plant lineages. Such patterns of biome switching are not only of interest for studies of plant diversification, but also have far-reaching implications for understanding forest ecology and the conservation of evolutionary (phylogenetic) diversity as a result of land-use or climate change.

The project focuses on the rain forest, seasonally dry forest and savanna biomes of South America, and the postdoc will take a leading role in fieldwork, data generation, data analysis and paper-writing.

The project aims to:

  • integrate plot and community survey data from all three biomes from a wide variety of sources to create a dataset of floristic composition unparalleled in its ecological breadth and detail, spanning ~1300 sites. We will work at on all tree genera and at the species level in Leguminosae (the legume family) across all plots
  • quantify the climatic and edaphic niches of: (i) all adequately sampled genera; and (ii) all adequately sampled species of Leguminosae
  • reconstruct phylogenetic relationships of: (i) all genera found at all inventory sites in all biomes; and (ii) of species of Leguminosae found at >10 plots across all biomes, using existing and de novosequence data

These datasets will then be used to understanding the timing, rate and nature of biome switching and niche evolution in South American trees.

You will have a completed or soon to be completed (by start of the post) PhD with a background in plant evolution, systematics, ecology, or biogeography. You will need to have fieldwork experience and good skills in quantitative scientific methods, allied to good communication skills. An ability to work in an international team will also be needed, along with some level of fluency in Spanish and/or Portuguese.

The work will be based in the UK at Leeds (first 9 months) and Edinburgh (subsequent 15 months) although you will work closely with all partners involved in the project in Brazil, Peru and Bolivia. The first part of the post will focus mainly on fieldwork and data collection and the second part principally on data analysis and writing.

Further details concerning the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh can be found at and for the School of Geography, University of Leeds at:

Salary £31,000- £34,000 p.a.

Informal enquiries may be made to Prof Toby Pennington (; +44 (0)131 248 2818), Dr Kyle Dexter (, +44 (0) 131 248 2964) and/or Dr Tim Baker ( (0)113 343 8352).

A job description and person specification can be downloaded from

To apply, please send a covering letter explaining your suitability for the post and a CV as well as a completed equal opportunities questionnaire to the HR Team at The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 20a Inverleith Row, Edinburgh, EH3 3LR or by e-mail to at Applications should be received no later than Monday, 17 December 2012.

If you have not heard from us by 31 January 2013, please assume your application has been unsuccessful. No recruitment agencies please.

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