PhD Positions (2) in Computational Behavioural Ecology

This job offer has closed

    University of Amsterdam
    Biological sciences
    First Stage Researcher (R1)
    16/10/2021 21:00 - Europe/London
    Netherlands › Amsterdam


The Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics at the University of Amsterdam (UvA) is recruiting two PhD students in the field of computational behavioral ecology. These students will work on a NWO Vidi-funded project aimed at identifying the behavioural rules used by predators and prey during encounters and resolving their ecological consequences.

Predators in aquatic systems are on average five times bigger and faster than their prey, yet they only capture prey in a small fraction of their attacks. The goal of this project is to mechanistically understand how prey are able to overcome this biomechanical disadvantage to evade their predators. To do this, we will deploy underwater observatories designed specifically to continuously film predator-prey interactions among coral reef fish in the Caribbean. Using a machine learning pipeline to process these videos, we will reconstruct both the visual sensory inputs and behaviour outputs of predators and prey during interactions and use this dataset to test theory-driven hypotheses about the rules that underlie these behaviours. By identifying these 'rules of life' and using mathematical models to explore their consequences, our aim is to resolve the paradox of how prey evade their bigger, faster, stronger predators. More broadly, this work will generate fundamentally new insights about the key behavioural rules that underlie ecological interactions.

What are you going to do

This is an interdisciplinary project drawing upon tools and concepts from ecology, neuroscience, biomechanics, computational science and machine learning. Within the broad scope of the project, each PhD student will have the opportunity to tailor their thesis to their specific research interests and expertise. Thus, what you do will depend on your interests and experience, but will at least include some combination of:

  • developing machine learning pipelines to reconstruct fine-scale behaviour from videos of predator-prey interactions;
  • analyzing fine-scale behavioural data to identify behavioural rules of attack and evasion;
  • developing and analyzing mathematical models of predator-prey interactions and their ecological consequences;
  • conducting field work in the Caribbean to film predator-prey interactions among coral reef fish.

Our offer

A temporary contract for 38 hours per week for the duration of four years (the initial contract will be for a period of 18 months and after satisfactory evaluation it will be extended for a total duration of four years). This should lead to a dissertation (PhD thesis). We will draft an educational plan that includes attendance of courses and (international) meetings. We also expect you to assist in teaching undergraduates and master students. 

The salary, depending on relevant experience before the beginning of the employment contract, will be €2,395 to €3,061 (scale P) gross per month, based on a fulltime contract (38 hours a week). This is exclusive 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus. A favourable tax agreement, the ‘30% ruling’, may apply to non-Dutch applicants. The Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities is applicable.

Are you curious about our extensive package of secondary employment benefits like our excellent opportunities for study and development? Take a look here.


Do you have questions about this vacancy? Or do you want to know more about our organisation? Please contact:

About us

The Faculty of Science has a student body of around 7,000, as well as 1,600 members of staff working in education, research or support services. Researchers and students at the Faculty of Science are fascinated by every aspect of how the world works, be it elementary particles, the birth of the universe or the functioning of the brain.

The Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED) is one of eight research institutes of the Faculty of Science at the University of Amsterdam. The research at IBED aims to unravel how ecosystems function in all their complexity, and how they change due to natural processes and human activities. At its core lies an integrated systems approach to study biodiversity, ecosystems and the environment. IBED adopts this systems approach to ecosystems, addressing abiotic (soil and water quality) and biotic factors (ecology and evolution of plants, animals, and microorganisms), and the interplay between those. The IBED vision includes research encompassing experimental and theoretical approaches at a wide variety of temporal and spatial scales, i.e. from molecules and microorganisms to patterns and processes occurring at the global scale.

Job application

The UvA is an equal-opportunity employer. We prioritize diversity and are committed to creating an inclusive environment for everyone. We value a spirit of enquiry and perseverance, provide the space to keep asking questions, and promote a culture of curiosity and creativity.

Do you recognize yourself in the job profile? Then we look forward to receiving your application by 10 October 2021. You can apply online by using the link below. 

Applications in .pdf should include:

  • a motivation letter and CV, including a list of publications;
  • contact information for two academic references.

Please mention the months (not just years) in your CV when referring to your education and work experience. We will invite potential candidates for interviews on 13 and 20 October 2021

More Information

Offer Requirements


What do we require

  • A recent MSc degree in ecology, neuroscience, physics, or a related field.
  • Enthusiasm for research at the interface of organismal biology and ecology.
  • A strong quantitative skill set in data analysis and mathematical modelling, and ability to learn new concepts and (computational) methods as needed.
  • Affinity with scientific programming (e.g. Python, R, Matlab).
  • Ability to work in an inclusive, respectful work environment, and to lead and contribute to collaborative projects.

Map Information

Job Work Location Personal Assistance locations
Work location(s)
2 position(s) available at
University of Amsterdam
North Holland
904 Science Prak

EURAXESS offer ID: 685612


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