PhD position

PhD student opportunity

Over the last 150 years, the cumulative effects of environmental stressors on Burrard Inlet (by Vancouver BC) have impaired its health and reduced the opportunity for Tsleil-Waututh Nation (TWN) to utilize the waters and beaches to harvest food and practice aspects of TWN culture. As urban, industrial, and Port development around Burrard Inlet continues, this has the potential to put further stress on the ecosystem and many of the natural resources important to TWN. Consequently, improved monitoring and assessment of cumulative effects from historic and future development is a high priority for TWN. Currently, however, no government or agency is equipped to accurately and holistically assess the cumulative environmental impacts of developments and stressors within the inlet. Therefore, TWN is actively leading and developing a Cumulative Effects Monitoring Initiative (CEMI) to inform complex management decisions in Burrard Inlet based on Tsleil-Waututh knowledge, priorities and field science programs.

CEMI is led and managed by TWN with support from numerous collaborators and stakeholders. The program is also committed to making environmental data available as open data and usable for widespread application, such as project-related impact assessments. In addition, TWN has engaged the Government of Canada to recognize the assessment tools produced by CEMI as the Regional Assessment under the proposed new Federal Impact Assessment Act.

To properly inform environmental management, CEMI will develop a holistic monitoring program that will be used to establish current baseline conditions, monitor and assess trends over time, predict future development and climate change effects, and identify and prioritize opportunities for environmental protection, restoration and enhancement. Moreover, TWN is analyzing the archaeological record and historical climate proxies to recreate the ecosystem and food-web that existed before European settlers reached Burrard Inlet and track the arc of environmental changes. This aspect of CEMI will be developed from archaeological analyses led by Dr. Jesse Morin. Development and implementation of CEMI is a long-term project and will include a number of steps before it can inform management objectives and strategies.

CEMI is now developing an analytical framework, such as an ecosystem model, to inform policy and evaluate impacts from proposed developments and identify restoration opportunities. This framework will be the fundamental link between the field data collected and management, and will be used to develop and enforce management objectives and strategies. TWN is determining the most appropriate analytical framework to address CEMI’s specific objectives, and is evaluating how well ecosystem models can assess cumulative effects.

TWN has determined the following overarching objectives to guide model development:

  • Objective 1: Establish a pre-contact baseline food web and track the arc of change to the current environmental state of Burrard Inlet.
  • Objective 2: Inform ecosystem restoration and enhancement initiatives and progress that will allow TWN members to obtain a minimum of 10% of protein requirements from Burrard Inlet by 2040.
  • Objective 3: Inform impact assessments and management decision-making to ensure all future approved development projects in Burrard Inlet will result in net ecological gain.

To address the project objectives and questions, we require a spatiotemporal food web model that will produce spatially specific information regarding historic, current and future changes to the food web and ecosystem in Burrard Inlet. The model will need to consider trophic connections, biological and physical processes, and environmental conditions that drive and limit productivity, and is to be developed based on the Ecopath with Ecosim (EwE) modeling framework. It is intended to link the model to a hydrodynamic model, and to consider the impact of chemical and microbial contamination data, habitat data and other sub-lethal effects.

It is the intention to develop an EwE model for Burrard Inlet, taking advantage of extensive data collection as well as historical information for the Inlet. As part of this, we are searching for a PhD student that will be based at UBC, but spend a considerable part of the time with project partners at the Tsleil-Waututh Nation and Kerr Wood Leidal. The PhD student will be focused on constructing the EwE model from field and historical data collected by TWN, and the work will in support of and close cooperation with TWN’s CEMI.

The PhD student is expected to provide input identifying important data gaps, analyzing existing data that may be of use, and to start developing a model as early as possible in order to ensure its maximum suitability for the TWN and CEMI.

The student is expected to have an background in and interest for quantitative analysis and statistics, including for modelling. Experience with EwE is an asset, but not a requirement. The student must be admitted as a graduate student at UBC, and thus must fulfill UBC's requirements, including for education and language capabilities.

Equity and diversity are essential to 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 status as a First Nation, Metis, Inuit, or Indigenous person.

Previous work with Aboriginal groups and an understanding of Tsleil-Waututh culture and Coast Salish peoples is an asset.

UBC’s strategic plan identifies inclusion as one of our key priorities. We welcome colleagues with the experiences and competencies that can contribute to our principles of inclusion, equity, and diversity throughout campus life.

If interested, please submit an application to Villy Christensen via email, along with CV and transcripts from previous degrees. Please also arrange for two or three references to be sent directly to Villy Christensen by the referees. The succesful applicant will receive a stipend that fully meets the IOF/UBC requirements plus get tuition covered. The expected timing is with a start in September 2019, and the duration is max. four years.

This announcement was posted January 14, 2019, and the position will be open for application as long as the notice is available at this website. The hiring committee for the position will include the project leadership (below) and a PhD student from IOF/UBC.

Project coordination and leadership