Research Associate Job: Forecasting land use changes due to resource development to improve boreal caribou conservation

Research Associate
Anthropogenic Disturbance

Eliot McIntire


June 14, 2022

Northern ecosystems in Canada are changing at a rate twice as fast as other areas of the globe due to climate change. Climate change can result in direct effects on wildlife (higher mortality, lower reproduction) but also indirect effects on their habitat through changes in vegetation (e.g. shifts in tree species composition within forests) and natural disturbances like wildfire (e.g. increase in the frequency and size of fires). In addition to climate change, northern ecosystems are affected by human disturbance primarily associated with resource development that includes: forestry, conventional oil and gas development and extraction, mineral mining, wind power, linear features and road development. Boreal caribou are a species of cultural, economic, and ecological importance in northern regions of Canada. Numerous sources have identified these anthropogenic disturbances as the most important contributor to declines of boreal caribou; yet, forecasting these disturbances, and their interactions with vegetation and natural disturbances under climate change remains a challenge.

The Department of Forest Resources Management, UBC-Vancouver campus, seeks a Research Associate to undertake research on forecasting land use changes due to resource development to improve boreal caribou conservation. This research associate will be responsible for undertaking research on a project funded by Cumulative Impact Monitoring Program of the Government of Northwest Territories (NWT CIMP) and supported by Environment and Climate Change Canada and Natural Resources Canada under the supervision of Dr. Eliot McIntire and in collaboration with researchers from ENR/GNWT, the Canadian Forest Service (CFS), ECCC, and the UBC Faculty of Forestry. The overall objective of the position is to develop and implement new models that can forecast the impacts of resource development on boreal caribou resource selection and population demographics in Northwest Territories (NT), Canada. The specific objectives are: (1) to compile resource development potential mapping within the boreal region of Northwest Territories, Canada (NT); (2) to integrate resource development potential mapping with forecasts of vegetation, wildfire, climate, and caribou developed within the boreal regions within NT; and (3) forecast through time (2021-2100) the regional cumulative effects of resource development, vegetation, wildfire, and climate on habitat supply and boreal caribou population demographics by examining resource development scenarios.

This project will take advantage of an open modeling framework – SpaDES, developed within the R language – to integrate the novel components created here with existing models (vegetation dynamics, wildfire, caribou resource selection and population growth). Results from this work will help inform current and future cumulative effects on boreal caribou habitat supply and population demography and support caribou range planning and decision making in the NT. The successful candidate will work with a network of landscape scientists, northern scientists, caribou biologists, R programmers, and quantitative ecologists.

Required qualifications:

• A PhD in ecology, natural resource sciences, geography, applied mathematics, computer science, statistics, or a related field; • A minimum of 4 years postdoctoral research experience with landscape simulation, wildlife forecasting, and highly integrated projects; • Proven experience with landscape change simulation including forest growth and mortality, and wildfire simulations at large spatial scale (> 1Mi km2) (i.e., publication in peer-reviewed journal); • Proven experience with forecasting of caribou demographics and habitat (i.e., resource selection models, population growth models, etc.); • Knowledge of the current anthropogenic disturbance challenges in the Northern Boreal Forests of Canada, especially in the Northwest Territories; • Proven advanced knowledge of SpaDES and development of SpaDES modules shown in at least one publication as first author in peer-reviewed literature; • High-level programming skills in R (i.e., statistical analysis, model development, GIS and package development); • Proven experience with version control for coding purposes (i.e., GitHub or similar); • Experience managing or co-managing large scale and highly integrated projects; • Good publication record (i.e., peer-reviewed journal articles, including first author publications) in the last 7 years; • Advanced knowledge in GIS applications (including ArcGIS, QGIS and use of open-source GIS packages in R); • Proven experience with climate change projections; • Excellent oral and written communication skills; • Ability to work in a dynamic and diverse large research team; • Ability to work and communicate within a distributed team (e.g., Zulip or Slack); • Ability to work on a project with defined milestones and timelines.

Position Details:

The 2-year position will begin as soon as the candidate is available, with immediate start possible. The minimum annual salary, in accordance with UBC HR guidelines, will be set at $ 60,205 plus benefits. The research associate position will be administered at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC. The position will be primarily located in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, at the Pacific Forestry Centre. There may be opportunities for visits to NT to work with collaborators and engage partners although travel with depend on current COVID-19 public health guidance. Field work is not anticipated.

Applications should consist of cover letter, CV and contact information of three references. Please direct inquiries to Principal Investigator, Dr. Eliot McIntire by email

Applications should be submitted via Workday: JR8063. Deadline for applications is July 21, 2022 at 11:59pm.

All appointments are subject to budget availability.

As one of the world’s leading universities, the University of British Columbia creates an exceptional learning environment that fosters global citizenship, advances a civil and sustainable society, and supports outstanding research to serve the people of British Columbia, Canada and the world.

UBC hires on the basis of merit and is committed to employment equity. All qualified persons are encouraged to apply. Equity and diversity are essential to 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 Nation, Metis, Inuit, or Indigenous person. All qualified candidates are encouraged to apply; however Canadians and permanent residents will be given priority.