Early-Stage Researcher (ESR)/PhD position as part of the MSCA ETN '4D-REEF'


(3 years)

Project title: Coral growth and reef function on ancient and modern reefs from turbid water settings in the Coral Triangle

Host: Natural History Museum, London (UK)

Supervisors: Ken Johnson (Natural History Museum), Erica Hendy (University of Bristol), Tilo Burghardt (University of Bristol)

Reef corals are one of the main actors in reef carbonate budgets, with their net contribution controlled by environmental factors influencing both coral growth and bioerosion of coral skeleton. Where growth rates exceed erosion coral can maintain the high level of rugosity that provides critical habitat for high biodiversity. In this study the ESR will reconstruct rates of growth and bioerosion of common massive corals from Pliocene, Holocene, and modern reefs to understand the contribution of corals to reef budgets in these systems. X-ray computed tomography (CT) will be used to quantify the density, distribution, and size of skeletal elements and to visualise annual density bands that can be used to estimate linear growth rates. Similarly, the numbers and sizes of void space left by internal bioeroders can be visualised and quantified from CT data. Both growth rates and bioerosion are notoriously variable among habitats and taxa, so in this project we will process large numbers of smaller colonies that provide decadal-scale records. An innovation of this project will be the development of a new high-throughput workflow and data pipeline to efficiently collect and process data from hundreds of CT scans. This workflow will subsequently be applied to extract useful information from natural history collections and cores from modern reefs to develop a large-scale database of coral growth rates for use in reef budget modelling.

Objectives of the individual project

  1. Develop a new high-throughput analysis pipeline to visualise and measure annual density banding and bioerosion intensity in massive reef corals using CT
  2. Test growth rates estimated using CT with rates obtained from traditional plane x-ray methods
  3. Measure growth rates in the massive merulininds from a range of mesophotic and euphotic reef habitats from fossil deposits and along a gradient of highly to less-impacted present-day reefs
  4. Quantify bioerosion rates as estimated by the size and frequency of boring within massive corals using CT
  5. Estimate alpha diversity and compare the community composition of coral assemblages at the reef sites

Expected results

A comparison of present-day growth and bioerosion rates from highly impacted reef habitats with: 1) less impacted present-day sites; 2) Holocene reefs that developed in environments similar to the present-day but with no human impact; and 3) a range of Pliocene reef habitats that developed during a globally warm interval that might be a useful proxy for future climates.

More information about 4D-REEF is available at: https://www.naturalis.nl/en/4d-reef

Secondments: University of Bristol, Naturalis Biodiversity Center

Eligibility criteria

EU eligibility criteria for candidates: Candidates of any nationality, but in order to be eligible for the positions the following criteria applies to all applicants: 1) The applicant shall at the time of recruitment be in the first four years of his/her research career and have not been awarded a doctoral degree. 2) The applicant must not have resided or carried out his/her main activity in the country of the host institute for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately prior to the recruitment.

Candidate profile

Candidates most hold a degree in Earth or Life Sciences and demonstrate a strong interest in advancing their skills in quantitative analysis of large datasets. Previous experience with Artificial Intelligence applications is desirable. We are looking for researchers willing and able to contribute to interdisciplinary research within the network and with good communication skills. Advanced SCUBA certification is desirable but not essential.

For any queries you may have, please contact:

Please feel free to contact Ken Johnson (K.Johnson@nhm.ac.uk)

How to apply?

Please apply here before 16 September: https://careers.nhm.ac.uk/templates/CIPHR/jobdetail_1767.aspx

4D-REEF has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research
and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement
No 813360

posted: 30 August 2019     Please mention EARTHWORKS when responding to this advertisement.