PhD Effectiveness of biodiversity conservation and participatory surveillance in reducing zoonotic disease risk

Wageningen University
January 24, 2023
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Offerd Salary:€ 2,541
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Contract Type:Other
Working Time:Full time
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Job description

Are you a highly motivated researcher who is excited by an interdisciplinary project on emerging zoonotic diseases? Are you interested in innovative and applied research to test the effectiveness of biodiversity conservation and participatory surveillance in reducing zoonotic disease risk? Then we invite you to apply for this exciting PhD position in our team!

Biodiversity loss and emerging zoonotic diseases are two global crises that are both related to human disturbance of natural systems. Loss of biodiversity disrupts complex ecological interactions that could potentially trigger pathogen spillover from wildlife reservoir hosts to livestock and humans. The economic impacts of spillover diseases are paramount as the recent Ebola and COVID-19 crisis have shown. Biodiversity conservation has been promoted as an effective measure to control zoonotic diseases with a wildlife origin, yet few studies have tested this strategy. The first aim of this project is therefore to test whether behavioural and economic interventions aimed at conserving biodiversity are effective in reducing zoonotic disease risk.

Preventing the next pandemic also requires detecting zoonotic spillover risk and transmission in early stages. This is particularly challenging in remote areas of developing countries. Participatory surveillance by local communities working and living with (wild) animals could be a cost-effective solution that empowers these communities to reduce zoonotic risk. The second aim of this project is therefore to develop and test the effectiveness of participatory surveillance strategies in reducing zoonotic disease risk.

The PhD candidate will (1) collect data on pathogen prevalence and diversity in local wildlife (e.g. through live trapping of small mammals, sampling of bushmeat) and analyse these data in relation to biodiversity and local intervention strategies, (2) analyse camera trapping data to determine the local diversity and abundance of wildlife, and (3) develop and test behavioural and economic interventions to conservation and participatory disease surveillance strategies by local communities. Field work will take place in Sierra Leone.

We are looking for a PhD candidate who is keen to perform state-of-the-art research at the intersection of disease ecology and development economics. The candidate is expected to publish the research findings in leading international academic journals, but must also communicate well across disciplines, project partners and stakeholders (e.g. local communities, government). The candidate will also be involved in the supervision of MSc students who perform their thesis research within the framework of the project.

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Requirements
  • MSc in ecology, epidemiology, development economics, or a related field, and with a strong interest in both ecological and economic processes;
  • quantitative skills for analysing spatial and temporal data
  • experience in data science and statistical modelling;
  • team player;
  • strong organizational and communication skills;
  • excellent command of English (C1 level);
  • field work experience in developing countries is a plus.
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    Conditions of employment

    Wageningen University & Research offers excellent terms of employment. A few highlights from our Collective Labour Agreement include:

  • paid parental leave;
  • working hours that can be discussed and arranged so that they allow for the best possible work-life balance;
  • the option to accrue additional holiday hours by working more, up to 40 hours per week;
  • there is a strong focus on vitality and you can make use of the sports facilities available on campus for a small fee;
  • a fixed December bonus of 8.3%;
  • excellent pension scheme.
  • In addition to these first-rate employee benefits, you will receive a fully funded PhD position and you will be offered a course program tailored to your needs and the research team. The gross salary for the first year is € 2,541,- per month rising to € 3,247,- in the fourth year in according to the Collective Labour Agreements for Dutch Universities (CAO-NU) (scale P). This is based on a full-time working week of 38 hours. We offer a temporary contract for 18 months which will be extended for the duration of the project if you perform well. There are plenty of options for personal initiative in a learning environment, and we provide excellent training opportunities. We are offering a unique position in an international environment with a pleasant and open working atmosphere. You are going to work at the greenest and most innovative campus in Holland, and at a university that has been chosen as the "Best University" in the Netherlands for the 18th consecutive time.

    Coming from abroad Wageningen University & Research is the university and research centre for life sciences. The themes we deal with are relevant to everyone around the world and Wageningen, therefore, has a large international community and a lot to offer to international employees. Applicants from abroad moving to the Netherlands may qualify for a special tax relief, known as the 30% ruling. Our team of advisors on Dutch immigration procedures will help you with the visa application procedures for yourself and, if applicable, for your family. Feeling welcome also has everything to do with being well informed. Wageningen University & Research's International Community page contains practical information about what we can do to support international employees and students coming to Wageningen. Furthermore, we can assist you with any additional advice and information about helping your partner to find a job, housing, schooling, and other issues.

    Equal opportunities Wageningen University & Research (WUR) employs a large number of people with very different backgrounds and qualities, who inspire and motivate each other. We want every talent to feel at home in our organisation and be offered the same career opportunities. We therefore especially welcome applications from people who are underrepresented at WUR. For more information please go to our inclusivity page. A good example of how WUR deals with inclusiveness can be read on the page working at WUR with a functional impairment

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    Employer Wageningen University & Research

    The mission of Wageningen University and Research is "To explore the potential of nature to improve the quality of life". Under the banner Wageningen University & Research, Wageningen University and the specialised research institutes of the Wageningen Research Foundation have joined forces in contributing to finding solutions to important questions in the domain of healthy food and living environment.

    With its roughly 30 branches, 7.200 employees and 13.200 students, Wageningen University & Research is one of the leading organisations in its domain. An integrated approach to problems and the cooperation between various disciplines are at the heart of Wageningen's unique approach. WUR has been named the best university of the Netherlands by students for the 18th time in a row.

    Read the 5 reasons why your future colleagues enjoy working at WUR and watch this video to get an idea of our green campus!

    The Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Group is working to understand how changing environments affect the abundance, distributions, and ecological interactions of wild animals and plants. We study how humans influence wildlife by examining direct mechanisms as well as mechanisms that are part of larger-scale processes. We embrace field-based, experimental and theoretical studies, and we work at levels of biological organization ranging from individuals to ecosystems. The group is embedded in the department of Environmental Sciences of Wageningen University & Research.

    The Development Economics Group aims to contribute to an improved understanding of the processes of sustainable development, institutions, conflict and poverty alleviation. We focus on research that can shed light on the dynamics of factor productivity and resource use in developing countries. The group is embedded in the department of Social Sciences of Wageningen University & Research. Wageningen University & Research provides fundamental research and academic education on our living environment. The mission of Wageningen University and Research is "To explore the potential of nature to improve the quality of life". Under the banner Wageningen University & Research, Wageningen University and the specialised research institutes of the Wageningen Research Foundation have joined forces in contributing to finding solutions to important questions in the domain of healthy food and living environment. With its roughly 30 branches, 6.800 employees and 12.900 students, Wageningen University & Research is one of the leading organisations in its domain. An integrated approach to problems and the cooperation between various disciplines are at the heart of Wageningen's unique approach. WUR has been named Best Employer in the Education category for 2019-2020.

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    Additional information

    To learn more about this position, please contact Dr. Helen Esser (helen.esser@wur.nl) or Dr. Maarten Voors (maarten.voors@wur.nl).

    For additional information about the process please contact our corporate recruiter Edgar Tijhuis (edgar.tijhuis@wur.nl).

    DO YOU WANT TO APPLY? You can apply up to and including January 23th 2023 Interviews will be online if travel turns out to be impractical. Envisioned starting date of the PhD position is March 2023. Applications must be uploaded via our webpage and include (1) a cover letter summarizing your motivation to apply and explaining why you are the ideal candidate for this position, (2) your CV, including the names of two references at the end of the CV. Please do not upload any other documents.

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