Applications are invited for a Postdoctoral Research Fellow to work within the interdisciplinary research project newLeaf (Learning to adapt to an uncertain future: linking genes, trees, people and processes for more resilient treescapes), funded by UKRI under the Future of UK Treescapes program.

The overall aim of newLeaf is to evaluate options for using the natural genetic variation within tree species to keep pace with expected changes in climate and the biotic environment. The project is structured into several interrelated work packages and of these the successful candidate will work within a team investigating future risks to UK forests from pests and diseases – a key part of the biotic environment to which tree species must adapt.

The emphasis of the position will be on developing statistical models to map and predict spatial patterns of tree pest and disease occurrence or emergence across the UK in relation to abiotic, biotic and human risk factors. The successful candidate will use existing databases of pest and disease detection, with information on their species, location, timing, setting and host tree. They will lead the production of predictive models for the likelihood or burden of pest and disease occurrence, using gridded data on potential drivers of risk such as land use, human activities, climate, forest connectivity etc.

From these predictive models, new risk maps will be produced to understand the spatial variation in threats to different forests and explore covariance and trade-offs between resilience to P&Ds and climate across the UK, working closely with forest pathologists and stakeholders to frame and interpret the models. The fellow will lead the publication of the findings in scientific papers and present the work at scientific conferences and to meetings of the wider project team and other stakeholders with interest in forestry, conservation and plant health.

The post will be based at the University of Stirling in Central Scotland, UK.

Description of Duties

The main responsibilities are to:

  • Bring together existing spatial data on pest and disease burdens and risk factors in a form suitable for the statistical modelling
  • Use machine learning or other statistical modelling approaches to investigate how relationships among risk factors drive pest and disease burdens across UK forests
  • To use the statistical models to predict gradients in pest and disease burdens across the UK
  • Become part of the wider newLeaf project team of forest ecologists, geneticists, statisticians, social scientists and creative artists, for example by attending project meetings and events
  • Write and contribute to publications and disseminate research findings using other appropriate media
  • Deliver presentations at conferences, project meetings, stakeholder engagement workshops, and other relevant events

Essential Criteria

  • A PhD in Ecology, Plant Pathology, Statistics or a related field
  • Expertise in use of R or other statistical/machine learning software, including for spatial predictive modelling (e.g. species distribution modelling, spatial point processes)
  • Expertise in use of GIS (QGIS, ArcGIS or equivalent)
  • Experience in data acquisition and processing, analysis, and interpretation of complex spatial and temporal data
  • Evidence of self-motivation and the ability to work independently
  • Evidence of being able to work as part of a team
  • Excellent time management skills including ability to prioritise workload

Desirable Criteria

  • Background in one or more relevant fields such as spatial ecology, forest ecology, tree health, invasive non-native species, pests and diseases etc
  • Track record of scientific publications on research in areas relevant to the post
  • Experience working in an interdisciplinary environment or with a range of stakeholders

Behaviours and Competencies

The role holder will be required to evidence that they can meet the qualities associated with the following behavioural competencies, as detailed within the AUA Competency Framework.

  1. Managing self and personal skills
    Being aware of your own behaviour and mindful of how it impacts on others, enhancing personal skills to adapt professional practice accordingly
  2. Delivering excellent service
    Providing the best quality service to external and internal clients. Building genuine and open long-term relationships in order to drive up service standards
  3. Finding solutions
    Taking a holistic view and working enthusiastically to analyse problems and to develop workable solutions. Identifying opportunities for innovation
  4. Embracing change
    Being open to and engaging with new ideas and ways of working. Adjusting to unfamiliar situations, shifting demands and changing roles
  5. Using resources effectively
    Identifying and making the most productive use of resources including people, time, information, networks and budgets
  6. Engaging with the wider context
    Enhancing your contribution to the organisation through an understanding of the bigger picture and showing commitment to organisational values
  7. Developing self and others
    Showing commitment to own ongoing professional development. Supporting and encouraging others to develop their professional knowledge, skills and behaviours to enable them to reach their full potential
  8. Working together
    Working collaboratively with others in order to achieve objectives. Recognising and valuing the different contributions people bring to this process
  9. Achieving Results
    Consistently meeting agreed objectives and success criteria. Taking personal responsibility for getting things done

The University

The University of Stirling is committed to providing education with a purpose and carrying out research which has a positive impact on communities across the globe – addressing real issues, providing solutions and helping to shape society. Stirling is 4th in Scotland and 43rd in the UK for research impact, with 87% of its research having an outstanding or very considerable impact on society – and more than 80% rated either world leading or internationally excellent (Research Excellence Framework 2021). Interdisciplinary in its approach, Stirling’s research informs its teaching curriculum and facilitates opportunities for knowledge exchange and collaboration between staff, students, industry partners and the wider community.

The University of Stirling is ranked among the top 30 UK universities for student satisfaction (National Student Survey) and top 10 in the UK for postgraduate student experience (Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey), and has an overall five-star rating in the QS Stars University Ratings.

More than 17,000 students study with the University of Stirling globally, with over 120 nationalities represented on its scenic central Scotland campus alone. The campus – also home to 1,700 staff – has its own loch and castle, and a recent multi-million-pound redevelopment has delivered modern, flexible, and digitally connected study and social spaces at the heart of campus, including enhanced student support and retail and catering outlets.

The University has twice been recognised with a Queen’s Anniversary Prize – the first for its Institute for Social Marketing and Health (2014) and the second for its Institute of Aquaculture (2019). Stirling is Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence and its recently redeveloped world-class facilities provide the perfect training environment for the University’s sports scholars – many of whom compete at the highest level, including at the Olympics and Commonwealth Games – and for students, staff, and the wider community.

As a signatory to the £214 million Stirling and Clackmannanshire City Region Deal, the University is driving productivity and inclusive growth across the Forth Valley, and beyond.


Closing date 08-Feb-2023

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