Post-doctoral opportunity

Pan-Canadian biodiversity mapping using eDNA

Mapping Canada’s coastal ocean biodiversity: integrating environmental DNA and direct observations from the 2017 Canada C3, Coast to Coast to Coast expedition, led by the Students on Ice Foundation.

We are seeking an outstanding and dynamic post-doctoral candidate to lead the analysis of pan-Canadian biodiversity using eDNA data, to foster continued collaboration and data-sharing amongst a national team of scientists involved in biodiversity monitoring at multiple taxonomic levels, and to develop outreach activities to communicate the findings of the science program of the Canada C3 Expedition, held during the 150th anniversary of Confederation.

Biodiversity is one of the most fundamental measures of our natural capital, reflecting the vast array of species that constitute ecosystems. However, biodiversity is more than just a number of species. Species are the functional units of ecosystem processes, which through their complex interactions makes ecosystems operational. In the rapidly changing Canadian oceans it is essential to characterize an initial baseline of coastal biodiversity to better understand these changes as they occur.

Between June 1st and October 28th 2017 the Canada C3 expedition traversed the entire Canadian coastline from Toronto, Ontario to Victoria, British Columbia. This 150 day expedition covered the four key themes of Canada 150: Environment, Diversity and Inclusion, Reconciliation, and Youth Engagement. Under Environment, a science program was developed that covered 23 science research projects led by 13 institutions across Canada. This scientific program made the first pan-Canadian collection of coastal ocean eDNA. Concurrently, direct observations were made of a suite of other ecosystem parameters, including ocean physics and chemistry, microbial and plankton communities, marine mammals, and seabirds.

Preliminary eDNA analysis has demonstrated that these samples capture the full spectrum of life on the Canadian coast – from microbes to whales. We are seeking an exceptional candidate to lead a comprehensive, whole food web analysis (viruses to whales) of the eDNA samples. The candidate will work with technical staff on the optimization of primer selection, and will lead much of the bioinformatics analyses of the biodiversity study and connect back to the direct observations (i.e., both environment and biota) made during the expedition.

This post-doctoral position will entail managing the integration of multiple eDNA and other data sets emerging from laboratories at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, University of British Columbia, Dalhousie University, and the Canadian Museum of Nature. This will involve collaboration with taxonomic experts, bioinformatics and genetics experts, as well as a broad range of technicians, research scientists and other postdoctoral fellows, providing a unique environment for professional development in combination with strong research outputs. The diverse set of tasks in this project will require pan-Canadian travel, organization of workshops, and demonstrated ability to collaborate and communicate effectively to a range of scientific and non-scientific audiences. The primary output will be the publication of the first pan-Canadian eDNA data set alongside significant opportunities for collaboration on multiple associated taxon specific publications. In addition the candidate will assist in optimizing protocols for widespread application of eDNA-based ecosystem monitoring, and contribute to development of the pan-Canadian eDNA observation network.

A key aspect of this position will be diverse communication of the findings including to scientific and non-scientific audiences, local communities and the public throughout Canada. As such, demonstrated communication skills are paramount as is the ability to collaborate as part of a team. We expect the candidate to adopt innovative approaches that incorporate social media, and web presence, online interactive products, videos, and the development of infographics and other communications materials for broad-based audiences. The candidate will work closely with the Students on Ice Foundation, the Canadian Museum of Nature, local communities, and other partners in developing outreach activities.

Necessary qualifications:

  • A PhD in molecular biology, genomics;
  • Demonstrated expertise in bioinformatics
  • Demonstrated skills in R and/or Matlab, Other scripting languages (e.g. perl, python) and ability to work in a Unix environment will be advantageous;
  • Experience in metabarcoding or environmental DNA analysis;
  • Strong and dynamic communication skills and/or experience in science outreach;
  • Molecular genetics laboratory experience;
  • Ability to both work independently and operate within a large multidisciplinary team.

Application date: As soon as possible
Starting date: July 2018
Salary: $55,000 per year including benefits.
Position Length: One year, renewable up to two years
Location: The candidate will be based at the Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, University of British Columbia.

Applicants should submit:

  • A CV, including the e-mail and phone numbers for three references;
  • A short cover letter (1 page) explaining the applicant’s motivation for working on the project and how previous experience qualifies them for this position;
  • A copy of the PhD thesis;
  • Reprints of 3 published papers, if available.

Equity and diversity are essential for academic excellence. An open and diverse community fosters the inclusion of voices that have been underrepresented or discouraged. We encourage applications from members of groups that have been marginalized on any grounds enumerated under the B.C. Human Rights Code, including sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, racialization, disability, political belief, religion, marital or family status, age, and/or status as a First Nations, Metis, Inuit, or Indigenous person.

Submit applications to: Dr. Brian Hunt ( and Dr. Kristi Miller (