PhD Opportunity at the University of Cape Town


Benchmarks for the future: Long-term vegetation change along a 1,500 km aridity gradient in South Africa derived from palaeoecology and historical ecology

We are looking for a PhD candidate with a natural science background to join an interdisciplinary team working on long-term vegetation change. We are looking for an energetic and enthusiastic scientist with special skills in palaeoecological techniques, particularly the analysis of fossil pollen, to join the Plant Conservation Unit for a period of three years.

Research context

The research programme, comprising four PhD candidates and one MSc student, will use an innovative combination of approaches incorporating analyses of historical climate and land use data, repeat photography, palaeoecology and long-term ecological monitoring to assess changes in the vegetation over the last millennium along a 1,500 km transect from Namaqualand in the west to the former Transkei region in the east. Data collected will help to establish pre-colonial benchmark conditions of the vegetation of the savanna, grassland, Nama-Karoo and succulent Karoo biomes. Insights from this analysis will help in the evaluation of future climate change scenarios for the sub-region, with important implications for policy development and implementation

The candidate

An MSc in Ecology, Botany, Physical Geography or a related subject is essential. Candidates whose MSc is soon to be completed may be considered. The candidate should have the ability to carry out meticulous laboratory work and to spend long hours at the microscope identifying and counting fossil pollen grains. Persistence and attention to detail are essential. Preference will be given to candidates who have experience in palaeoecological methods, particularly fossil pollen and charcoal analysis. The PhD is due to begin on May 1st 2010 or as soon as possible thereafter.

The bursary of R90 000 per year for a maximum of three years is supported by the University of Cape Town’s African Climate and Development Initiative (ACDI) and the Carnegie Foundation. Further funds are available for field work and laboratory costs.

Application procedure

Please write a short letter of application indicating why you are applying and highlighting relevant expertise in palaeoecology. Attach your curriculum vitae and the names and e-mail addresses of three referees whom we may consult. Please attach a copy of your highest qualification.

Apply to:

Dr Lindsey Gillson by e-mail Lindsey.Gillson@uct.ac.za or by fax or snail mail at the address below.

BY DEADLINE: 23 April 2010.

UCT is committed to the pursuit of excellence, diversity and redress. Our Employment Equity Policy is available at http://hr.uct.ac.za/policies/ee.php.

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