PhD Research Fellow in Ecology - Brown bear social networks

Deadline: 31.10.2021

University of South-Eastern Norway

The University of South-Eastern Norway, USN, is one of Norway’s largest higher education institutions, with around 18,000 students and 1,900 employees across eight different campuses.

We offer studies, research and knowledge dissemination, all targeting various professions and working life and with a high level of quality internationally. Our goal as a University is to create value both for the individual student and for business and commerce, the public sector and society in general. We achieve this by utilising the best tools we have: education and research.

USN is a University with a strong social commitment where studies and working life are integrated. At USN, we focus on practice-relevant, profession-oriented and applied research and education.

The students shall benefit from innovative educational methods and challenging studies closely associated with society's requirements and needs.

They will learn how to adapt to a society and working life that is constantly changing. The University shall meet major social challenges with knowledge and expertise, helping to promote practical solutions, structural changes and new ways of thinking. USN’s academic activities shall be embodied by a clear dedication to the UN’s sustainable development goals. The University aims to realise this main profile in close cooperation with society and working life.

For more information on USN, please go to www.usn.no

The Faculty of Technology, Natural Sciences, and Maritime Sciences have a vacancy for a position as PhD Research Fellow in Ecology - Brown bear social networks

About the position

The Faculty of Technology, Natural Sciences and Maritime Sciences has a vacancy for a 100 % position as PhD Research Fellow in Ecology from 1.1.2022, or as soon as possible after this date.

The position is located at the Department of Natural Sciences and Environmental Health, and the immediate superior is the Head of the Department. The main work place is in Bø, in the Municipality of Midt-Telemark, Vestfold and Telemark County, Norway.

The appointment is for a duration of three years without teaching requirement. A four year duration of appointment with a 25 % teaching requirement can be considered, depending on the needs of the Department and the competence of the applicant. There is a premise for employment that the PhD Research Fellow is enrolled in USN’s PhD Program in Ecology within three months of accession in the position.

About the PhD project “The effectof hunting on social networks and interactions in brown bears”

The proposed PhD project is based on the long-term individual-based data set, genetic pedigree, and VHF/GPS re-location data set of the Scandinavian Brown Bear Project (SBBRP). No additional field work is needed, but it is recommended that the successful candidate spends time in the field to obtain a better understanding of the study area and study species.

The principal objective of the proposed PhD project is to contribute towards a fundamental understanding of how interactions and the social network among individuals affect fitness (reproduction, survival) and space use of solitary-living animals, and how anthropogenic effects, especially hunting, affect the evolutionary trajectory of such species.

Animal sociality can affect individual fitness and is often an important factor in population management and conservation. Depending on how a species' sociality will affect its survival rate, the expression of sociality can greatly vary the responses of populations to conservation programs. Much of its study involves quantifying inter-individual interactions and resulting social networks, however most research has focused on social species. Because the nature, frequency, and duration of interactions vary spatially and temporally, the social system of a species is dynamic rather than a fixed feature. Studying sociality in a solitary species could therefore reveal different, previously unexpected behavioral phenotypes.

Brown bears are considered a nonterritorial and solitary-living species, i.e. they do not defend an exclusive territory against intrusion from other conspecifics. Instead, brown bears live in home ranges, i.e. areas in which animals live and move for the majority of their lives. Such a home range is not defended, like a territory, but commonly overlaps with home ranges of other conspecifics of the same and opposite sex. In addition, brown bears are not group-living, but live solitarily throughout the year, with the exception of mothers accompanied by dependent offspring. Brown bears in Scandinavia are heavily hunted, and there is evidence that their life history is severely affected by this type of management. We are interested in evaluating if and how the social system and life history of brown bears is affected by population management and hunting.

The following main research topics are proposed, however, the successful applicant will have the opportunity to develop more detailed research questions:

  • How is the sociality and the social network of a solitary-living species affected by hunting?
  • Male and female reproductive strategies and mating networks in relation to age, body size, and hunting.
  • The habitat use of brown bears during the mating season and how it is affected by human disturbance.

Publication of research results in international peer-reviewed journals is expected.

The primary supervisor will be Prof. Andreas Zedrosser at USN, and the secondary supervisors will be Prof. Fanie Pelletier, University of Sherbrooke, Canada; researcher Martin Leclerc, Laval University, Canada; and researcher Shane Frank, USN. Additional collaboration partners from within the frame work of the SBBRP may participate in the research activities. The applicant will be part of the research group Laboratory of Evolutionary and Behavioral Ecology at USN.


Applicants to the PhD position must have a Master’s degree (120 ECTS) or equivalent higher education qualifications in ecology or related areas. The degree must be accomplished before application deadline.

It is a requirement that the successful candidate is granted admission to the USN’s PhD Program in Ecology within three months of accession in the position. For admission to the Program, the candidate must have a grade B (weighted average) or higher in his/her Master’s degree or equivalent higher education.

The successful candidate should have:

  • Qualifications in the field of ecology or other related areas, such as eco-physiology, behavioral ecology, landscape ecology, etc.
  • A very strong background in statistics, especially the ability to handle and analyze large spatio-temporal data, and the analysis of eco-physiological and/or stable isotope data. Use of the statistical platform R.
  • Good oral and written English skills.
  • The ability to work independently and at the same time have the motivation to share knowledge and take part in team work.
  • The willingness to cooperate with other PhD students, postdoctoral researcher and researchers in an international environment is essential. The candidate is expected to contribute to lab work, and should also be willing to spend a certain amount of the PhD period with collaboration partners abroad, for example at the Polish Academy of Sciences, Krakow, Poland, or the Ludwig-Maximilians University of Munich, Germany.

An ideal candidate should be creative, analytical, and highly self-motivated, and possess good collaborative skills. Demonstrable skills in the publications of scientific papers and experience in handling of biological samples and analysis of stable isotope and/or cortisol data is advantageous, but not required. The staff at the faculty work within subject teams to a large extent, and the candidate must be motivated to share his or her knowledge and cooperate. Personal suitability for the position will be emphasized.

We offer

  • A stimulating and growing research environment, with good opportunities to develop your career and your academic skills
  • A good social environment
  • Attractive welfare benefits in the State Pension Plan
  • Opportunity for physical activities within working hours


PhD Research Fellow (code 1017): NOK 491 200 a year. Further promotion will be based on time served in the position.

A statutory contribution to the state pension plan will be deducted from the employee’s salary.

Other information

The Academic Appointments Board for PhD Research Fellowships is responsible for the appointment. An expert assessment of applicants will be carried out. The candidates deemed best qualified will be invited to an interview.

The person appointed must comply with the laws, regulations and agreements that apply at any given time to the post. Please note that approved work permit is a prerequisite for the employment.

According to its human resources policy, the University of South-Eastern Norway targets a balanced gender composition and aims to recruit persons with a background as an immigrant.

The University contributes to the Inkluderingsdugnaden (a voluntary scheme to promote inclusion), and it is our aim that our employees, to the fullest extent possible, shall reflect the diversity of the general population. We therefore encourage qualified applicants with disabilities to apply for the post. The University will facilitate the workplace for employees with disabilities.

Pursuant to section 25, 2nd paragraph of the Freedom of Information Act, information on the applicant may be disclosed even if the applicant has requested not be included on the list of applicants. Applicants will be notified if such requests are not allowed.

Contact information

For more information about the position, please contact:

For questions regarding the recruitment process, please contact:

How to apply

The University of South-Eastern Norway makes use of online application management. Applicants to the post must register their application and CV with enclosures online via the Jobbnorge recruitment portal by clicking on the link on the right-hand side – “Søk stillingen” (Apply for the post).

The following documents shall be attached to the online application:

  • Transcripts and diplomas of Bachelor's and Master's Degrees (120 ECTS)
  • A letter of motivation
  • Any scientific publications and a list of these
  • Three references (contact information)

Please note that all documents must be in a Scandinavian language or in English. Any translations must be certified.

The application will be assessed on the basis of the attached documentation as requested above. Each applicant is responsible for ensuring that the required documentation has been uploaded with the application deadline.

The University has been awarded a Charter & Code certificate by the European Commission, and is entitled to use the HR Excellence in Research (HRS4R) logo. The University is also a member of the EURAXESS network, which contributes to good working conditions for mobile researchers.

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