[MARMAM] Doctoral position - Nutritional dynamics of food webs supporting the Southern Resident Killer Whale

Thornton, Sheila Sheila.Thornton at dfo-mpo.gc.ca
Thu Apr 26 09:42:22 PDT 2018

Doctoral position on food webs supporting the Southern Resident Killer Whale
University of British Columbia - Department of Earth Oceans & Atmospheric Sciences and the Institute for the Oceans & Fisheries
An outstanding doctoral candidate is sought to resolve the pathways and nutritional dynamics of food webs supporting the Southern Resident Killer Whale population in coastal British Columbia.
The Southern Resident Killer Whale (SRKW) population is listed as endangered under the Canadian Species at Risk Act. Threats to recovery of this population include contaminants, physical and acoustic disturbance, as well as declines in prey availability and quality. As an apex predator in the Salish Sea, the survival of SRKW is influenced by food web processes that cause fluctuations in the abundance and availability of Chinook salmon, their primary prey species.  Declines in Chinook marine survival have reduced the abundance of adult salmon since the 1990s. Their survival has been correlated with the abundance of lipid-rich cold-water zooplankton, which are consumed by juvenile salmon, and support herring and other forage species that are important prey for other Chinook life-stages.  The availability of these important zooplankton species have been linked to long-term increases in ocean temperature and extreme events such as the 2014-2015 marine heatwave ("the Blob") and the 2016 El Niño.  These and other changes in food web processes may thus be negatively affecting the availability and quality of prey for SRKW. In contrast to SRKW's, the Northern RKW population has increased in size over the last decade.
This project will develop a framework for the food webs that support Chinook salmon within SRKW's critical habitat, research small-scale variability in food web dynamics, and provide insight into nutrient and contaminant transfers. Food webs in SRKW habitat will be contrasted with those supporting the NRKW population. This research project will be supported by dedicated trawl and bio-oceanographic surveys conducted in collaboration with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. In addition, the candidate will be expected to develop a Chinook salmon sampling program in partnership with recreational fishers. Analytical techniques employed will include stable isotopes, fatty acid, energy and contaminant content, and food web modelling. The candidate will work in close collaboration with a fisheries acoustician at the IOF. This project will advance knowledge of regional food web dynamics in British Columbia and dovetail with the International Year of the Salmon.
The ideal candidate will have a Master's degree in biological or fisheries oceanography, or a related discipline, and be competent in field work, the above outlined biogeochemical techniques, as well as quantitative methods. Excellent English written and oral skills as well as strong demonstrated organizational skills and attention to detail are essential. Fluency in R, Matlab or Python, and previous experience with food web modelling will be beneficial. Innovative approaches to resolving food web dynamics and implications for nutrient transfer are encouraged and should be touched on in the motivation letter. Candidates should also demonstrate experience in project design and implementation as well as strong interpersonal skills (i.e., ability to work efficiently and collaboratively with colleagues and other students).
Applicants should submit to Dr. Brian Hunt via email: b.hunt at oceans.ubc.ca<mailto:b.hunt at oceans.ubc.ca>:

·       a curriculum vitae;

·       copies of academic transcripts;

·       reprints of published papers;

·       a letter of motivation; and

·       the names and contact details of three references.
Start date: September 2018
A fellowship of $25k per year for four years will be provided. Additional support is available through Teaching Assistantships and departmental scholarships.
The position will be conditional on the chosen candidate's successful acceptance into the doctoral program at the Department of Earth Oceans and Atmospheric Sciences at UBC's Vancouver campus.
Equity and diversity are essential for academic excellence.  An open and diverse community fosters the inclusion of voices that have been underrepresented or discouraged.  We encourage applications from members of groups that have been marginalized on any grounds enumerated under the B.C. Human Rights Code, including sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, racialization, disability, political belief, religion, marital or family status, age, and/or status as a First Nations, Metis, Inuit, or Indigenous person.

Sheila J. Thornton, Ph.D
Research Scientist, Ecosystem Sciences Division (ESD), Science Branch
Fisheries and Oceans Canada / Government of Canada
Sheila.Thornton at dfo-mpo.gc.ca<mailto:Sheila.Thornton at dfo-mpo.gc.ca> / Tel: 604-364-5917

Scientifique de recherches, Division des sciences de l'écosystème, Sciences
Pêches et Océans Canada / Gouvernement du Canada
Sheila.Thornton at dfo-mpo.gc.ca<mailto:Sheila.Thornton at dfo-mpo.gc.ca> / Tel: 604-364-5917

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