PhD position: Past, present, and future of coastal fish communities in the oceanic archipelagoes of the Atlantic Ocean – Deadline 03 July 2023

Summary of the Work plan

Coastal rocky reef ecosystems on oceanic island archipelagoes are special environments, with their isolation resulting in both unique biodiversity and vulnerabilities. These face rising challenges, given the dramatic population rise as well as tourism on many of these islands, with the subsequent increase for food demand/fisheries, pollution and habitat degradation. The habitat constrained and isolated nature of these ecosystems further increases their vulnerability to these pressures. Climate change also poses new and harder to predict challenges, the impacts of which have not yet been appropriately studied in oceanic islands in comparison to the continental shelf reef ecosystems. The reported trends of tropicalization in continental shelves, with many species shifting towards higher latitudes and increasing dominance of tropical species, relative to boreal species (tropicalization and deborealization), are yet to be analyzed and predicted for the coastal rocky reefs of oceanic islands.

This PhD aims to conduct a pan-Atlantic assessment into the past, present and future state of coastal rocky reef ecosystems in Atlantic oceanic archipelagos. The focus will be on the Azores archipelago but will also address other regions spread along a latitudinal and impact gradient, including Macaronesia (Azores, Madeira, the Canary Islands, Cabo Verde), and south Atlantic archipelagos (St Helena, Ascension, São Tomé and Principe) at various scales. Specific coastal habitats and community components will be differentiated based upon already developed ecosystem health indicators. Where appropriate time series data are available, the spatial-temporal trends of the coastal rocky reef fish communities will then be assessed, and their drivers identified and quantified, as well as the influence of management measures on these trends. These relationships will then be used to predict the long-term impacts and the future state of these ecosystems under different scenarios, including management (e.g. MPAs).

This work will specifically contribute to work packages 1 (Ecosystem Integrated Assessment), 4 (benthic mapping), 5 (trend analyses/state drivers), 6 (ecosystem modelling/dynamics) and 7 (risk assessment) of the EU Horizon project Mission Atlantic – Towards the Sustainable Development of the Atlantic Ocean.

Candidate Profile

The candidate will be selected based on his/her CV, LoS and accompanying documentation,  and evaluated taking in consideration :

  • background knowledge of coastal reef fish communities and ecosystems
  • experience dealing with large datasets of fisheries independent (e.g. UVC, BRUVs), and fisheries dependent data
  • experience with time series data analysis and predictive modeling techniques, on both spatial and temporal scales
  • advanced skills in R and GIS software.
  • experience in underwater survey techniques, such as UVC via scuba diving, as well as fish identification and in-situ size estimation, and BRUVs
  • ability to work abroad in remote locations, in dynamic team’s environments, and independently

Name(s) of supervisor(s)

  • Supervisor: Pedro Afonso, University of the Azores, Portugal
  • Co-Supervisor:   Martin Lindegren, Technical University of Denmark, Denmark
  • Co-Supervisor:   Sergio Floeter, Federal University of Santa Catarina, Brazil

Name(s) of host institution(s)

The research will be conducted at the Institute of Marine Sciences – OKEANOS of the University of the Azores, in cooperation with the co-supervisors research groups.

Identification of PhD program (at the Portuguese University)

PhD in Marine Sciences  – University of the Azores

Notice of the Call ( English version)

The AIR Centre PhD Scholarship Programme aims at training the leaders of the future

Enhancing scientific research and technology development capabilities of AIR Centre Network in order to better respond to national priorities and global challenges in the Atlantic region;

  • Strengthening existing collaboration ties and exploring or developing new collaboration ties between the AIR Centre and the Portuguese scientific community in areas of common interest;
  • Promoting bilateral/multilateral cooperation between Portuguese scientific institutions and other institutions from diverse Atlantic countries through inclusive knowledge and data sharing to promote job creation, young entrepreneurship and inclusive sustainable development;
  • Expanding the reach of the AIR Centre scientific agenda through a wider engagement with the academia to demonstrate the societal relevance and public value of research.

Doctoral research work will be carried out entirely or partially in a Portuguese institution.


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.

For  further information about this opportunity, click here.

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