Marsden Fund supported Doctoral Fellowship

We seek applicants for a PhD fellowship to be funded by a Standard Grant from the Marsden Fund Council, administered by the Royal Society of New Zealand. The work will be based in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand, under the primary supervision of Assoc. Prof. Daniel B. Stouffer.

Project summary:

Competition between species is central to understanding how the natural world works and is regarded by many ecologists as a critical factor in determining species coexistence. Within the literature, the notion that competition is an additive process—implying that pairwise interactions are enough to explain the outcomes of competitive interactions between species—has effectively become dogma among both theoreticians and empiricists. There are a variety of reasons, however, why nature may not work quite so simply and that competition is actually a non-additive process. With this in mind, the primary objective of this research program is to test the validity of this assumption across diverse empirical datasets from natural plant communities. We also plan to evaluate the extent to which this revised perspective on competition between plants alters our understanding of the mechanisms of coexistence, as well as our general appreciation for the complexity of diverse plant assemblages.

While the successful applicant will be based in the Stouffer Lab at the University of Canterbury, the thesis research will also be developed in close collaboration with the grant's co-PI, Assoc. Prof. Margaret Mayfield from the University of Queensland, Australia, and the PhD student will have multiple opportunities to spend time in Dr. Mayfield’s lab during the course of their studies. Notably, this position is also aligned with a larger set of related endeavours being undertaken by members of the two research groups (at the postgraduate and post-doctoral levels), as well as ongoing empirical studies led by Dr. Mayfield and her team as part of an Australian Research Council Discovery Grant (awarded to Drs. Mayfield and Stouffer).

Scholarship details:

The student will ideally be prepared and able to start prior to July 2017. This 3-year scholarship provides a competitive annual stipend (NZD$27,500, tax free) and covers full university fees (tuition). Funding is already secured for all anticipated research costs, including travel to visit project collaborators and to attend national and international conferences.


Because of the project's interdisciplinary nature and strong emphasis on combining theory with empirical data, we are open to applicants from ecology, biology, engineering, applied mathematics, physics, computer science, and related areas. The ideal candidate also has prior programming experience in a language such as R, Python, C, or C++.

All applicants should (i) have a bachelor's degree (involving a research component), an honours degree, or a master's and (ii) must meet the admissions requirements of the University of Canterbury, including its English language requirements, and successfully obtain a student visa.

How to apply:

To apply, please e-mail Daniel B. Stouffer ( with PDFs of your CV, evidence of prior qualifications and grades (e.g., academic transcripts), a one page statement describing your interest in the position and how your qualifications or research experience map onto the proposed research, and the contact details of two or three academic references.

The deadline for submitting applications has now closed.