PhD in Reconciling Information Theory and Nonlinear Dynamics to Study Community Ecology (1.0 FTE)

PhD in Reconciling Information Theory and Nonlinear Dynamics to Study Community Ecology (1.0 FTE)

Published Deadline Location
16 Nov 7 Dec Utrecht

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Interested to work at the forefront of quantitative research studying the dynamics of biodiversity? Apply now!

Job description

The global decline of biodiversity and rapid loss of natural areas emphasizes the urgency of the challenge to understand how ecosystems change and to identify the main processes shaping ecological communities. Ecology is inherently complex, and the ever-increasing amount of data becoming available, asks for new interdisciplinary methods to make full use of their potential.

The newly formed research unit Quantitative Biodiversity Dynamics (QBD) aims to achieve a better understanding of the dynamics of biodiversity by developing and applying novel and highly interdisciplinary approaches to quantify processes underlying the origins, maintenance and dynamics of biodiversity. Within QBD we have an exciting opportunity for a PhD candidate developing the theory to combine principles of information entropy and nonlinear methods for quantifying the dynamics of biodiversity. You will address how to apply and extend current approaches in the field of information theory (both static and dynamic), nonlinear dynamics (e.g. chaos theory), as well as general timeseries analyses, towards a more dynamical interpretation of community ecology applicable in various habitats. This includes, but is not limited to, understanding the robustness of predictions, scalability issues, the comparison with existing methods and development of novel approaches combining these disciplines. You will work on questions and issues like:
  • Comparing both static and current developed dynamic applications of principles from information theory, what can they add separately to understand ecological dynamics?
  • What can we learn from taking existing methods of time series analyses, manifold reconstruction (e.g. Takens theorem) and nonlinear dynamics to quantify and understand ecosystem dynamics?
  • Combining principles from nonlinear dynamics and information theory: do these add to current understanding or just add unnecessary complexity?

In collaboration with a PhD candidate whose research is more ecologically oriented, as well as with other QBD staff, your research should ultimately lead to a framework of methods to be applied towards better conservation, management and restoration efforts.

The desired start date for this position is as soon as possible.


Utrecht University


We are looking for a candidate with:

  • a Master's degree in Mathematics, Physics or Biology with a clear theoretical background;
  • fluency in English, both in speech and writing;
  • a strong interest in ecological theory and complex systems analysis;
  • a strong interest in working collaboratively and interdisciplinary.

Conditions of employment

  • a full-time position for four years;
  • a full-time gross salary that starts at €2,541 and increases to €3,247 per month in the fourth year (scale P of the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities (cao));
  • 8% holiday bonus and 8.3% end-of-year bonus;
  • a pension scheme, partially paid parental leave, and flexible employment conditions based on the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities (CAO).

In addition to the employment conditions laid down in the CAO for Dutch Universities, Utrecht University has a number of its own arrangements. For example, there are agreements on professional development, leave arrangements and sports. We also give you the opportunity to expand your terms of employment via the Employment Conditions Selection Model. This is how we like to encourage you to continue to grow.

More information about working at the Faculty of Science can be found here.


A better future for everyone. This ambition motivates our scientists in executing their leading research and inspiring teaching. At Utrecht University, the various disciplines collaborate intensively towards major societal themes. Our focus is on Dynamics of Youth, Institutions for Open Societies, Life Sciences and Sustainability.

At the Faculty of Science there are 6 departments to make a fundamental connection with: Biology, Chemistry, Information and Computing Sciences, Mathematics, Pharmaceutical Sciences and Physics. Each of these is made up of distinct institutes that work together to focus on answering some of humanity’s most pressing challenges. More fundamental still are the individual research groups – the building blocks of our ambitious scientific projects. For more information, please visit working at the Faculty of Science

The research unit of Quantitative Biodiversity Dynamics is an interdisciplinary collaboration between Utrecht University Botanical Garden, the Departments of Biology, Mathematics, Information and Computing Sciences as well as the Center for Complex Systems Studies of Utrecht University. We are embedded in the research group of Ecology and Biodiversity at the Department of Biology.


  • PhD
  • Natural sciences
  • 38—40 hours per week
  • €2541—€3247 per month
  • University graduate
  • 1200163



Padualaan 8, 3584 CH, Utrecht

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