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Neotropical Paleoecology Research Group(NPRG)

Neotropical Paleoecology Research Group (NPRG)


Postdoctoral researcher wanted

The Neotropical Paleoecological Research Group at Florida Institute of Technology is seeking an energetic, highly motivated, post-doctoral researcher to investigate past ecological tipping points in Amazonia and the Andes. This NSF-funded research project will generate paleoecological records across multiple timescales in tropical systems. The post-doc will be responsible for fossil pollen analyses, and in integrating pollen data with additional paleoecological proxy data generated by our collaborative partners at Brown University and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. The successful candidate will join an active and productive research lab, that contains MS and PhD students as well as high-quality undergraduate researchers. There will be opportunities to conduct fieldwork in Amazonia, participate in international conferences, and mentor students.

Candidates must hold a Ph.D., with an emphasis on Quaternary fossil pollen analysis. Candidates must also have a basic working knowledge of R, and desire to advance their quantitative skills. Scientific communication is an important consideration and complete fluency in spoken and written English is preferred.

The appointment would be full-time, renewable for 3 years. The start date is flexible, but a target date is June 1st 2021.

Applicants should send a CV to Dr. Mark Bush An initial review will be made by Feb 28th. All candidates will be notified of status on March 1st. Candidates on the short-list will be asked to have letters of support sent by March 15th, 2021.

Florida Tech is a private, Tier-1 university on the Atlantic coast of Central Florida. The region has surf beaches, large areas of protected lands, low crime rates, good schools, and a moderate cost of living. Florida Tech actively supports an educational environment that fosters diversity and inclusion for all and is an affirmative action/equal opportunity employer.



Paleoecology is the sudy of past ecosystems. To us, 'the past' can be anything from the last decade to a million years ago, and the period that we study just depends on the question we want to answer. This is an exciting time to work on Paleoecology in South America. There are many unresolved questions ranging from: 'How resilient are rainforests to climate change?' through 'Did humans cause the extinction of the megafauna?' to 'Can super-warm times of the past help us to understand our future?'.  We study the impact of climatic change on plant communities in tropical Central and South America. Successful conservation of tropical biodiversity requires that we understand the mechanisms controlling habitat and species distributions. Two potent forces induce changes in these distributions: climate change and human activities. Our research uses paleoecology to understand the changing patterns of tropical biodiversity and how people have, and are, impacting it.

Through the study of fossil pollen, diatoms, and charcoal, we reconstruct the history of habitats in tropical South America. These paleoecological records allow us to reconstruct past climate change and relate it to patterns of biodiversity, speciation, and human occupation. From these observations we contribute to the current debate on global climate change and species conservation.

Lake Ayauchi, Ecuador. Photo: Bryan Valencia

Figure Caption: Lake Ayauchi, in the lowland Amazonian forest of Ecuador, is one of our research sites

To gain these data we must locate and visit ancient lakes in the neotropics. The lake sediments hold a history of the surrounding landscape since the formation of the lake. A core of those sediments provides us with a complete history of that location. We raise the cores using a backpackable coring rig. As many of these lakes lie in some of the most remote locations on Earth, the fieldwork is arduous and not for the faint-hearted. Although the coring is an important and exciting facet of our work, the great majority of our time is spent in intensive laboratory work counting and identifying fossil pollen, charcoal, and diatoms. We conduct statistical analyses incorporating the latest methodologies, which include geographic information systems approaches and, multivariate and Bayesian analyses.

Coring Lake Yanacocha, Peru

Figure Legend: Raising a sediment core from an Andean lake from a raft of rubber boats.

Our principal goal over the next few years will be to raise new sediment cores that will allow us to test hypotheses of climate change and human history in the Amazon and the Andes. Our work is funded by grants from the National Science Foundation, NOAA, and the National Geographic Society.

Ecuador Andes. Photo: Bryan Valencia

 Figure Legend: A glaciated setting in the Ecuadorean Andes. This lake will be about 15,000 years old.