Job details

Job posted by International Max Planck Research School for Global Biogeochemical Cycles (22/07/2014 12.00)

Dimensions in trait variability on different spatial scales and organizational levels

Plant functional traits are widely used to detect and explain responses of ecosystem processes to climate and land-use change and they are important to inform global vegetation models. These large-scale studies use trait data from databases such as TRY, representing an extensive source of information for different traits and species on European and global scales. The problem of this approach is that often only few values per trait and species are available in these databases. Studies relying on these sources of information therewith ignore the potential impact of intraspecific trait variability on their results.


In the framework of this PhD project, we aim at quantifying the relevance of trait variability on different spatial scales and for different aggregation levels combining large trait databases (TRY) with data on species distributions, vegetation plots and remote sensing products in macroecological approaches. More specifically, we aim at
(1) disentangling functional groups showing large vs. small intraspecific varia- tion (i.e., when is it essential to include aspects of intraspecific variability),
(2) identifying the position of species in their environmental space where trait variability is highest (i.e., where is it essential to include aspects of intraspecific variability). Finally, we aim at
(3) producing and contrasting global trait maps relying on different data streams related to
(a) species distributions(presence/absence vs. abundances/ co-occurrences),
(b) trait values (one mean value per species vs. intraspecific variability), and
(c) landscape matrices (uniform grid cell vs. information on habitat distributions within grid cell).
This approach allows including more species biology into global vegetation models. If required/ desired, own field measurement campaigns may complement the database analyses. The output of the thesis improves our understanding of the spatial distribution of plant traits, being essential biodiversity variables also used to model biogeochemical cycles.

Working group & planned collaborations
The successful candidate will work in the Plant Biodiversity Group of the Friedrich-Schiller University Jena focusing on aspects of intraspecific trait variability under different climate and land-use change scenarios. In this project we closely cooperate with the Functional Biogeography group and the Empirical Inference of the Earth System groups of the MPI for Biogeochemistry. All three groups are members of the Research Institute for Integrative Biodiversity Re- search (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig and the sPlot initiative, combining global data on vegetation plots, plant traits and abiotic/ environmental conditions.

Nr of positions available : 1

Research Fields

Biological sciences - Biology

Career Stage

Early stage researcher or 0-4 yrs (Post graduate)

Research Profiles

First Stage Researcher (R1)


Successful applicants will be part of the International Max Planck Research School for Global Biogeochemical Cycles. Research at the school focuses on the distribution of elements essential to life and the climate among the components of the Earth system and the interaction between biosphere, atmosphere, lithosphere, land and oceans.
Besides doing research for their PhD project, PhD candidates also benefit from a three-month external research visit, specialized courses in e.g. statistics, Earth observation, modeling and analytical techniques, as well as in soft skills. The school is thus an excellent starting platform for a successful career in a field related to global biogeochemical cycles and Earth System Science.


Required Research Experiences
Main Research Field Environmental science
Sub Research Field Earth science
Required Languages
Language ENGLISH
Language Level Excellent
Required Education Level
Degree Field Biological sciences
Degree Field Geography
Degree Field Geosciences
Degree Master Degree or equivalent
Degree Master Degree or equivalent
Degree Master Degree or equivalent
Required Research Experiences
Years of Research Experience -
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International Max Planck Research School for Global Biogeochemical Cycles

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Hans-Knöll-Str. 10

EU Research Framework Programme
Is the job funded through the EU Research Framework Programme?


International Max Planck Research School for Global Biogeochemical Cycles

Public Research
Hans-Knöll-Str. 10
07745 - Jena
email imprs-gbgc@bgc-jena.mpg.de