Postdoctoral Research Associate in Ecological Modelling of the Antarctic from zooplankton to predators

richard-phillipsRichard Phillips
  • 23 Jul '21

The Department of Geography at Durham University seeks to appoint a full-time Post-Doctoral Research Associate in Ecological Modelling of the Antarctic with a focus on modelling past, present and future distributions and abundance of Antarctic species from zooplankton to predators, with a particular focus on snow petrels (Pagodroma nivea). The PDRA will join the interdisciplinary research team led by Professor Erin McClymont as part of the Leverhulme Trust-funded project “Unlocking evidence for Antarctic sea-ice evolution from a novel biological archive”. The PDRA will work under the supervision of both Professor McClymont (Geography) and Professor Stephen Willis (Biosciences) at Durham University and will collaborate with other members of the team including Professor Richard Phillips (British Antarctic Survey).

The wider, inter-disciplinary, Leverhulme Trust-funded project aims to reconstruct histories of snow petrel diet and the sea-ice environment using biogeochemical changes in snow petrel stomach oils. The project focuses on the Antarctic sea-ice zone, from the Last Glacial Maximum to the present. Other members of the team will be examining the evolutionary history of snow petrels using DNA, reconstructing past diet using trophic biomarkers in the stomach oil deposits, analysing current habitat use and preferences using tracking data, and modelling sea ice conditions through time. The project team includes 2 PhD researchers, 3 PDRAs, and investigators at both Durham University and the British Antarctic Survey.

The overall aim of this PDRA position will be to reconstruct past and predict future snow petrel distributions and abundance under differing sea-ice scenarios. The PDRA will develop basic species distribution modelling for a range of Antarctic taxa, including other seabirds and marine species, and including prey species of snow petrels. They will focus in particular on simulating the foraging and nesting distributions, cycles of occupation of potential breeding sites (nunataks), and the abundance of snow petrels over time. This will incorporate changing marine and terrestrial conditions (including ice cover), and other aspects of the species ecology, including habitat preferences, foraging capability (from linked tracking studies) and prey distributions. The outcomes of this work will be used to predict past distributions of snow petrel prey, informed by CMIP6 model outputs of past climate intervals, for comparison with the independent biogeochemical data generated by other members of the team. The PDRA will test the hypothesis that sea-ice distribution affected snow petrel populations in the past by influencing prey availability. They will also apply these models to future scenarios to infer how snow petrels will fare under alternative scenarios of climate change.

For full details of the role and how to apply, see

For informal enquiries please contact Professor Erin McClymont ( and/or Professor Stephen Willis ( All enquiries will be treated in the strictest confidence.