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  • MMRP

Seeking Post-Doctoral Research Fellow

Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship:

Estimating abundance of insular cetaceans in Hawaiian waters


Aerial image showing a large group of surfacing spinner dolphins.

Fellowship description and duties:


The Marine Mammal Research Program (MMRP) (www.mmrphawaii.org) at the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology (https://www.hawaii.edu/himb/), in close collaboration with NOAA’s Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (PIFSC) (https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/region/pacific-islands), is seeking to recruit a postdoctoral fellow in the area of marine mammal population assessment (including abundance estimation and demographic modelling), to join our lab. The successful candidate will design, lead and implement research investigating the abundance of insular cetaceans, with a main emphasis on spinner dolphins, off the Main Hawaiian Islands.


Research context and specific focus:


Hawaii has an unparalleled richness of natural resources and biodiversity that includes 30 species of whales and dolphins in its State and Federal waters. Cetaceans serve an important educational, economic and cultural role in Hawaii. Hawaii also hosts a rich cultural history, strong industries based on tourism and fisheries, vast renewable energy resources (e.g. wind and solar), and a significant strategic contingent of our Nation’s defence – with some of these having the potential to negatively impact Hawaii's cetaceans. While cetaceans are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act, many of their current and emerging threats are not well-understood.


Given the important value of marine mammals throughout the Hawaiian Archipelago and coupled with the current levels of human pressures, it is important to manage cetaceans sustainably through informed science. NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) Pacific Islands Region is mandated to assess, study and manage over 140 stocks of cetaceans across >2 million square miles across the North, South and Western Pacific basins. The scope and scale of NOAA’s significant mandate unfortunately leaves some important species and emerging problems unaddressed.


The MMRP is a research laboratory whose specific mission is to bridge rigorous science with management and implementation into policy. The MMRP is working closely with PIFSC to help address some of their needs. The successful candidate will be tasked to specifically focus on developing robust quantitative assessments of abundance (and potentially demography, and/or human-impacts) for insular cetacean species in the Main Hawaiian Islands. The post may involve working at the cutting edge of current population estimation methods, and potentially developing new methods if current approaches do not suffice. Potential exists for collaboration with leading statistical ecologists based at St Andrews University, Scotland.


It is expected that the successful candidate will liaise and collaborate with local, regional, and international scientists and stakeholders to ensure maximum applicability and utility of the research findings.


Spinner dolphins surfacing.

Required qualifications:


· A Ph.D. in either (1) ecology with strong quantitative component, (2) statistics/ mathematics with a strong ecological component; (3) bioacoustics with demonstrable components of ecology and statistics;

· An excellent track record demonstrating advanced skills in wildlife population assessment (i.e. estimation of abundance and/or other demographic parameters;

· An excellent publication record illustrating ability to conduct novel, independent research.

· Demonstrated proficiency with R (or related programming languages) and with software tools for wildlife population assessment;

· Demonstrated aptitude for applying advanced computational tools in a research setting;

· Considerable experience processing, manipulating, and analyzing large datasets;

· Excellent organizational and problem-solving skills;

· Strong attention to detail, and meticulous work style, as evidenced by previous research;

· Excellent time management skills, including the ability to meet project goals in a timely manner, and follow through on projects to completion;

· Demonstrated ability to mentor, or an interest in mentoring, junior laboratory members;

· Strong interpersonal and communication skills, including the ability to work both independently and collaboratively, and to communicate research findings at professional meetings and in high-quality peer-reviewed journals.


Desirable qualifications:


· PhD on marine mammals.

· An excellent track record in the design, successful execution, analysis and publication of wildlife population assessment surveys, particularly for abundance estimation, and in the context of marine mammal surveys.

· Demonstrable understanding of advanced abundance estimation methods including distance sampling, capture-recapture, spatial capture-recapture, and other emerging approaches.

· Demonstrated ability to develop new statistical methods, or work closely with those developing such methods.

· Experience in the use of passive acoustic monitoring.

· Experience as a small boat operator.

· Ability to travel for fieldwork and conferences.


Spinner dolphin mother and young calf. Image taken by Dr Julian Tyne.

Research Environment:


The postdoc will be based in the lab of Lars Bejder (www.mmrphawaii.org) at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB). HIMB is within the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST; www.soest.hawaii.edu) at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. HIMB provides unparalleled research opportunities, in particular due to its unique location on Moku o Loe Island (Coconut Island) in Kaneohe Bay on the windward side of the island of Oahu (~ 24 km from the main university campus in Manoa). The successful candidate will work in close collaboration with the NOAA’s Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Centre (PIFSC). It is expected that the candidate will contribute to mentoring graduate students in the MMRP lab, and actively engage, participate and contribute to other areas of research and administration in the program.


The MMRP is rapidly developing a supportive and stimulating research environment with a group of highly collegial scientists who are committed to scientific outreach and policy, to open science, and to enhancing diversity in STEM. We offer a family-friendly, flexible work environment where work-life balance is encouraged.


Appointment and application:


The postdoc fellowship is initially for one year, renewable for up to three-four years based on performance. Fellowship stipend is commensurate with experience within guidelines set by the university. The start date is negotiable, but preferably in early 2020.


To apply: Candidates should submit the following materials via email to Dr Bejder (lbejder@hawaii.edu) in a single PDF document, with your last name in the file name and the subject heading “MMRPpostdoc application” by 20 October 2019 (Hawaii–Aleutian Standard Time):


· A letter explaining your motivation for applying for this fellowship, how your prior research experience qualifies you for the fellowship, how you satisfy the required and desirable qualifications, and your career goals;


· A CV (including publication list, which may include publications in advanced stages of preparation that will be likely in the review process by the above postdoctoral fellowship deadline date);


· Names and contact details for three references.


Individual qualifications and background, academic excellence, and collegiality will be the primary criteria in selecting the successful candidate.


We are committed to equality and diversity and encourage applications from women, underrepresented minorities, indigenous peoples, and persons with disabilities. 

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