Job offers! PhD students in Barcelona (CREAF)


The EDM team is looking for PhD students for the STOIKOS project (Elemental ecology: towards an element-based functional ecology, reference: ERC-2022-STG 101076740-STOIKOS) funded by the European Research Council.

The project aims to investigate whether the elemental composition of organisms relates to ecosystem functioning, and whether ecosystem elemental diversity predicts ecosystem functioning better than traditional metrics of diversity. The candidate will join a multidisciplinary team, working with observations, experiments and theoretical modelling to answer our scientific questions. The candidate will benefit from the training and career development opportunities offered through our research team and CREAF, exposure to international research and interaction with other national and international collaborators.

Full-time contracts are offered for 3 years (with a potential extension of one additional year), starting during October - November, 2023. The gross salary offered is ~€17.5k€ annually.

All research lines include some tasks that are already defined, and some that are subject to change in accordance with the expertise/interests of the candidate.

  1. Assessing elementome shifts, competition and the role of elemental diversity using experimental microcosms using bryophytes
    This project will perform microcosm experiments using bryophytes in which we will place different species together and on their own, to test whether their elemental composition and functional traits shift when they compete for resources. The PhD will consist of 2 different experiments and the analyses of an already existing database of bryophyte elemental composition in spring ecosystems.

  2. Establishing the link between organism functioning and elemental composition across and within species
    This project will engage in a large-scale field campaign to sample a wide array of organisms, including trees, shrubs, herbs, bryophytes, lichens and arthropods from which we will analyse their functional traits and elementomes to investigate their correspondence across species. We will also perform experiments to investigate how changes in environmental conditions may induce changes in traits and elementomes in order to study their joint plasticity. This PhD will also collaborate with the E-TRAITS.

  3. Beyond natural ecosystems: elementomes, elemental diversity and crop performance
    This project will aim to investigate how integrating the concept of elementomes and elemental diversity in agriculture can help our crops improve their yields, stability and other desirable services (e.g., soil carbon sequestration). The candidate will build a new agricultural dataset including information regarding the elemental composition of crops and measures of performance. They will also analyse an already existing dataset from an agricultural experiment to investigate how the elemental composition of crops determines their traits. The PhD may also be involved in performing one experiment in the field.

  4. Modelling elementomes and elemental diversity effects on ecosystem functioning, niche differentiation and evolution
    This project will build our own theoretical models and use integral projection models based on inventory data in order to investigate ecosystem-level properties derived from the interaction of organisms with different elementomes. Our theoretical models will be used to test i) the effect of biodiversity on ecosystem functioning at different levels of elemental diversity, ii) intra- and interspecific competition and shifts in the elementomes and iii) how functional temporal complexity changes depending on (i) and (ii). The PhD project will be mainly focused on theoretical ecology, but acquiring experimental data will be needed in order to support theoretical models.

  5. Investigating the drivers of destabilisation of natural ecosystems
    Global change is putting all types of ecosystems under increased stress. There is good evidence indicating that increasing stress due to climate change, altering the nutrient cycles and loosing biodiversity will reduce the capacity of ecosystems to withstand disturbances, increasing their variability and reducing their resilience. However, whether ecosystems are becoming more unstable due to global change and which are the drivers of ecosystem variability and resilience remain elusive. This PhD project will consist of the analysis of local, regional and global datasets, based on long-term monitoring sites, experiments and remote sensing and other global gridded datasets, in order to answer the question of whether global change is destabilizing terrestrial ecosystems and to investigate the drivers of ecosystem variability and resilience. Similar analyses have been performed in this Nature paper of the EDM team.


  • Compile and analyse big datasets of ecosystem functioning and elemental composition.
  • Write scientific articles according to the objectives.
  • Contribute to the main objectives of the research team, including field work and projects of other members.


  • BSc and MSc (or equivalent) in Environmental Sciences, Biology, Environmental Biology, Mathematics, Physics or similar.
  • Meet the requirements to be accepted for a PhD training program at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona or at the Universitat de Barcelona.
  • Experience and interest in ecological research (e.g., BSc or MSc theses).
  • Willingness to collaborate in projects from other team members.
  • Excellent oral and writing communication skills.
  • Advanced knowledge of statistics and programming in R.
  • High level of English, both spoken and written. Catalan and Spanish highly recommended.



  1. Applicants will have to submit: 1) their CV in English, 2) a cover letter (maximum 500 words, also in English, specifying which line(s) of research the candidate is interested in) and, 3) two recommendation letters from professors or researchers to
  2. Pre-selection: determination of compliance with the minimum requirements of the offer.
  3. Selection: assessment of the preselected candidates by scoring based on objective criteria. The candidates presenting the highest scores will be invited to a physical or remote interview and a test of general skills and knowledge about the chosen line of research (depending on the residence of the candidate).
  4. Final decision: in case of finding a suitable candidate, the election will be formally communicated to them.
  5. For any enquiries, please, contact Dr. Fernández-Martínez:
How are the concentration of these elements influencing ecosystem functioning? Help us discover that!
How are the concentration of these elements influencing ecosystem functioning? Help us discover that!

Good luck, candidates!

Want to know more? Contact us!

Marcos Fernández Martínez
Marcos Fernández Martínez
Researcher - PI of the EDM research team

My research interests include global biogeochemical cycles, the role of nutrients on ecosystem functioning, forests and bryophytes