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PhD: Understanding impacts of scale on the Red List Index: a case study on European vertebrates (Inspire4Nature H2020-MSCA-ITN)

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    Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei
    Biological sciencesBiodiversity
    First Stage Researcher (R1)
    16/04/2018 23:00 - Europe/Brussels
    Germany › Berlin
    H2020 / Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions

This project will explore relationships between Red List Indices at national, European, and global scales, building from re-assessment of extinction risk of all European freshwater fishes. Based at the Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (Berlin, Germany), with secondments to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (Cambridge UK; 8 months).

This is Project 8 out of 15 PhD positions currently available as part of the Inspire4Nature training programme. Deadline for applications: 16 April 2018 (midnight, Brussels time).

PhD topic

The Red List Index (RLI) (Butchart et al. 2007; Bubb et al. 2009) has been adopted as an official indicator of progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals and the Aichi Targets. These are country-led processes, and so the RLI must be applicable at national levels as well as the global level. Moreover, because the RLI has a fairly low temporal resolution, and because some taxonomic groups encompass high proportions of Data Deficient species, it needs to be applicable across multiple taxonomic groups to deliver sample sizes with sufficient power to detect change. The calculation of RLIs requires repeat Red List assessments for all species within given taxonomic groups. All bird species have been assessed seven times, all mammals three times, and all amphibians and reptiles twice. All European species of freshwater fish have been assessed once (Freyhof & Brooks 2011). As most threatened vertebrates in Europe are freshwater fish, the contribution of this taxonomic group to the RLI is essential. This project will thus support a Red List re-assessment of all European freshwater fishes, as data inputs towards understanding how the RLI scales between geographic, habitat-specific and taxonomic scales.

The project will work with FVB-IGB, members of the IUCN Species Survival Commissions Freshwater Fish Specialist Group, and the IUCN Global Species Programme to draft re-assessments of the extinction risk of all European freshwater fishes for the IUCN Red List. As part of this effort, in March 2019 all project early-stage researchers will undertake Inspire4Nature’s third training session (T3) in application of the IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria (IUCN 2012), followed by a review workshop of the draft fish species Red List assessments to complete the second comprehensive assessment of European freshwater fishes. The project will then combine this data set on fishes with the existing Red List assessments for all European birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians to enable calculation of the first RLI for all European vertebrate species. This represents one of the project’s deliverables (D3.1).

The project will then use this comprehensive data set for all European vertebrates to evaluate different approaches for calculating RLIs at national scales for European countries (for example: comparing the global RLI downscaled to the European level with a regional RLI; comparing the global and European RLIs downscaled to the level of individual European countries with national RLIs for those countries), leading to new recommendations for downscaling the RLI from global to regional to national levels. RLIs will also be calculated for a range of taxonomic groupings to evaluate implications on the RLIs derived. Finally, the influence of species sample sizes will be evaluated in relation to the robustness of the derived RLIs. Implications from these calculations will be used to better understand use of the RLI for informing progress towards the CBD Aichi Biodiversity Targets, Sustainable Development Goals, and EU Biodiversity Strategy.

Related references

  • Bubb, P.J., Butchart, S.H.M., Collen, B., Dublin, H., Kapos, V., Pollock, C., Stuart, S. N., Vié, J-C. (2009). IUCN Red List Index - Guidance for National and Regional Use. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN.
  • Butchart et al. (2007) Improvements to the Red List Index. PLoS One, 2, e140.
  • Freyhof, J. and Brooks, E. (2011). European Red List of Freshwater Fishes. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.
  • Hoffmann, M., Hilton-Taylor, C., Angulo, A., et al. (2010) The impact of conservation on the status of the world’s vertebrates. Science, 330, 1503–1509.
  • (2012). IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria: Version 3.1. Second edition. Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK: IUCN. iv + 32pp. IUCN Species Survival Commission, IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.
  • Young, R.P., Hudson, M.A., Terry, A.M.R., Jones, C.G., Lewis, R.E., Tatayah, V., Zuël, N., & Butchart, S.H.M. (2014) Accounting for conservation: Using the IUCN Red List Index to evaluate the impact of a conservation organization. Biological Conservation, 180, 84–96.

Institutional context and Supervision

The PhD student will be hired by the Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei, FVB-IGB (Berlin), a research institute dedicated to generating, disseminating and applying knowledge about freshwater ecosystems. In particular, s/he will be be hosted by the Department of Biology and Ecology of Fishes, very well recognized and connected to freshwater biodiversity and freshwater fish experts all over Europe. There, s/he will be supervised by Jörg Freyhof (Project Coordinator) and Robert Arlinghaus (Professor for Integrative Fisheries Management at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin). Doctoral students doing their research at FVB-IGB can enrol in any German University to obtain their doctoral degree, but FVB-IGB has closer collaborations and joint professorships with Humboldt University of Berlin thus this will be the primary choice.

This project is in close collaboration with IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature. IUCN is a membership Union composed of both government and civil society organisations. It harnesses the experience, resources and reach of its more than 1,300 Member organisations and the input of more than 10,000 experts. IUCN is the global authority on the status of the natural world and the measures needed to safeguard it. The student will interact strongly with the Global Species Programme, in particular it’s Freshwater Biodiversity Unit led by William Darwall, who will co-supervise the project with Thomas Brooks, Chief Scientist at IUCN. The student will spend 8 months in secondment to IUCN (3 + 5 months). During this period, s/he will be based in the David Attenborough Building (Cambridge, UK), which houses nine conservation organisations and several departments of the University of Cambridge, who together form the Cambridge Conservation Initiative.

Ideal candidate

Candidates must meet all the general eligibility conditions applicable to all Inspire4Nature PhD positions, as described under “check if you are eligible” in this page. In particular: candidates cannot have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in Germany for more than 12 months within the previous 3 years, and must be early-stage researchers (no PhD yet, within the first 4 years of their research careers). In addition:

Required for this position:

  • An enthusiasm for Science in general and for fish biodiversity in particular.
  • A commitment to biodiversity conservation.
  • A strong academic record in biodiversity or a related field.
  • A Master’s Degree or equivalent.
  • Completion of at least one individual research project lasting ≥ 4 months (e.g. a Master’s thesis).
  • Good proficiency in English: at least B2 level in understanding, speaking and writing as defined by the European Language Levels Self-Assessment Grid.
  • Proficiency in GIS tools.
  • Good knowledge of statistical analyses.
  • Good collaborative skills.

Desirable for this position:

  • Experience in organising workshops.
  • Attention to detail and excellent scientific writing skills.
  • Experience in scientific communication and outreach.
  • A naturalist background.

Shortlisted candidates will be invited for an interview planned for the 11-12 June - please keep these dates open.


For any questions regarding application procedures, check this page first. If you cannot find your answer there, contact us. For any questions regarding the scientific content and institutional context of the PhD, contact Dr. Jörg Freyhof.

Ready to apply?

For the instructions on how to prepare and submit your application, go to this page.

Only applications that are complete, in English, that respect the instructions in this page and that have been submitted before the deadline (16 April 2018) will be considered eligible.

Work location(s)
1 position(s) available at
Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei
Müggelseedamm 310

EURAXESS offer ID: 281260