PhD position: Spatial ecology of juvenile and immature black-browed albatrosses, with relevance for marine spatial planning and for the potential spread of pathogens – Deadline 31 May 2023

Seabirds are major consumers in the southern oceans, but also one of the most threatened biodiversity components in the region. Immature individuals make up ~50% of the population of long-lived seabirds (e.g. in albatrosses), but comparatively little is known about their ecology and behaviour. Yet, they are key players in marine ecosystems and at the breeding sites on land. For example, while the well-studied adult breeders are extremely site-faithful and attached to one specific colony, immature birds regularly prospect future nesting sites, commuting between colonies, and hence have a great potential to spread diseases, such as avian flu, amongst others. Immatures also often differ from adults on their feeding ecology, proficiency in exploring the marine environment, their vulnerability to anthropogenic threats, and in their social skills. The Falkland Islands, in the sub-antarctic Atlantic Ocean is a global biodiversity hotspot for seabirds and is home to 70 % of the global population of Black-browed albatrosses Thalassarche melanophris, spread by a dozen different colonies and providing an exceptional context to study demography and spatial behaviour. Background information exists, particularly resulting from our long-term (20 years) intensive demographic and behavioural study on New Is, West Falklands (e.g. Ventura et al 2021. Proc R Soc B 288: 1963). Objectives of the project include: (a) assess the potential for immature albatrosses to spread pathogens through their prospecting movements; (b) evaluate the spatial and temporal patterns of recruitment of albatrosses to nesting colonies in relation to intrinsic (age, sex) and external (oceanography, social) factors; (c) document and explain differences in the spatial distribution and foraging strategies of adult and immature birds of different ages, as a function of ontogenetic development, environmental variables and climatic variability, with implications for at-sea distribution, interactions with fisheries and marine spatial planning (d) investigate their prospecting movements in oceanic areas with different national jurisdictions, with relevance for regional-scale marine/conservation policies?. The project will involve long periods of fieldwork in the sub-antarctic islands of the Falklands and will use 20-years long-term databases already available, state-of-the-art tracking techniques, laboratory studies of parasites and pollutants, amongst others. Results of the project will inform current Marine Spatial Planning initiatives as well as other policy in the region, related to seabird bycatch mitigation and to management of wildlife disease outbreaks. The PhD project will benefit from ongoing collaborations with partner institutions such as the CNRS – France (for pathogen studies), British Antarctic Survey (for state-of-the-art tracking technology and analytical tools) and SAERI (South Atl Env Res Inst). The student will also conduct a 3 months’ internship at the European Polar Board.

The project will be carried out at New Is and Steeple Jason where field stations are used by us since 2003 using local transportation. Although strictly not polar, albatrosses from the Falklands forage over a vast area of the South Atlantic. Our research has been part of the Portuguese Polar Program since its inception and is of relevance for the Southern Ocean. Full funding will come from projects, including annual funding from the Falkland Government. and a European Biodiversa project (2022-2025).

Profile of applicants

The suitable candidate for this position will have a good background training at the BSc and Msc level (biological sciences and/or oceanography), reflected in good university grades. Candidates with scientific publications will be strongly preferred. Candidates should be fluent in English and have a strong motivation to work with marine predators and in spatial ecology, with relevance to marine spatial planning and conservation in polar regions. An interest in policy issues is also desired.


Paulo Catry (supervisor) – University Institute of Psychological, Social (ISPA)
José Pedro Granadeiro (co-supervisor) – CESAM – Centre for Environmental and Marine Studies of Faculty of Sciences of the University of Lisbon (FCUL)

Host institutions

ISPA in collaboration with CESAM, FCUL

Doctoral programme

Behavioral Biology PhD at ISPA, LINK.


Scholarships are annual, renewable to a maximum of 4 years.


Applications and all supporting documents must be submitted online using the Application Form available on each scholarship page. Applications submitted by other means will not be accepted.

Application Process

Please note that you will need the items listed below. To ease the submission process, we suggest you gather them before you start your application:

  • Copy of your Identification Document (ID card, passport);
  • Certificate degree and grades transcript.
  • Your Curriculum Vitae and saved as PDF;
  • A Motivation Letter;
  • 2 Recommendation letters.

Notification of results

Evaluation results will be communicated to the email address provided by the candidates in the application form.


May 31 , 2023 |  23:59 Lisbon Time

Before applying, we STRONGLY RECOMMEND that you carefully read the Public Notice of the Call for detailed information on the application, evaluation and selection process.

Notice of the Call ( english version)

For  further information about this opportunity, click here.

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