New call: PhD positions at CREAF with “La Caixa” – INPhINIT fellowship programme

9 amazing project offered by CREAF. Join us!
9 amazing project offered by CREAF. Join us!

CREAF, as Severo Ochoa center, is a host organization of INPhINIT Incoming and offers up to 9 research projects to be carried out in a multidisciplinary and international research team.

9 amazing project offered by CREAF. Join us!
9 amazing projects offered by CREAF. Join us!

The doctoral fellowship programme INPhINIT ”la Caixa” is devoted to attracting talented Early-Stage Researchers—of any nationality—who wish to pursue doctoral studies in Spanish or Portuguese territory.

Sponsored by ”la Caixa” Foundation, it is aimed at supporting the best scientific talent and fostering innovative and high-quality research in Spain and Portugal by recruiting outstanding international students and offering them an attractive and competitive environment for conducting research of excellence.

More information ||   Programme rules

Our projects

PHUSICOS, According to Nature 


Dr.Dra. Pilar Andrés Pastor


Research Project / Research Group Description:

PHUSICOS is an EU H2020 project intended to demonstrate how nature-based solutions provide robust, sustainable and cost-effective measures for reducing the risk of extreme weather events in rural mountain landscapes.

The project includes real application of natural based solutions in Europe:

(a) the Pyrenees. In the French site (Barèges), specialized reforestation methods are been applied to reduce the risk of snow avalanches; in the Spanish site (Biescas), different stabilization methods are designed to reduce the risk of landslides and rockfalls.

(b) in Italy (Lucca), vegetated strips and agricultural techniques will be applied to reduce the volume of polluted sediments discharged to the Massaciuccoli lake.

(c) in Norway (Oppland), old overflow protective barriers are been remodeled along the Valley of Gudbrandsdalen to recover the riverside ecosystems.

The project looks for knowledge co-construction and social implication in decision making by means of active living labs.

The CREAF team is entrusted with defining the environmental indicators that will be used to measure effects of the solutions on carbon sequestration in soil and vegetation, soil environmental services (fertility, hydrological regulation, biodiversity provision, nutrient cycles, erosion), plant diversity and flammability and landscape dynamics. The base line of the indicators will be measured, and their expected future values modeled.

The team is led by Dr. P. Andrés, expert in ecological restoration and soil ecology. Other members of the team are Dr. J. Pino, expert in landscape ecology and plant diversity, Dr. J. Vayreda, expert in forestry and fire ecology, Dr. R. Molowny, expert in ecological modeling, Dr Enrique Doblas, expert in soil ecology, and Dr. S. Mattana, expert in the field of pedology, soil fertility and soil organic matter dynamics.

 Job position description:

The candidate will be working on indicators of soil environmental services and their relationship with aboveground plant indicators.

He/she will be helping with a field campaign in Norway and will be working with samples and dat from this campaign and from previous campaigns in Italy and the French and Spanish Pyrenees.

He/she will be working, after training, in laboratory methods to evaluate physical and chemical protection of C in soils, in methods to study soil biodiversity at the functional level (microbial and bacterial separated biomasses, trophic invertebrate groups – protists, nematodes, microarthropods-, functional DNA diversity evaluation).

He/she will be also working in general network modeling (in particular microbial gene co-occurrence), soil trophic web models (to model C and N mineralization by microbes). Advanced statistics will be applied to link belowground cryptic indicators with more conspicuous and easily measurable aboveground plant indicators.

New Iberian Forests under Global Change: A multi-scale approach. NEWFORLAND


Dr. Joan Pino


Research Project / Research Group Description:

Forests are expanding in Mediterranean Europe due to strong socioeconomic changes in the so-called forest transition, thus determining strong land cover (LC) shifts yet challenged by Climate Change (CC). New forests (NF) resulting from these changes may strongly differ in their landscape attributes and functioning respect to pre-existing ones (whether or not subjected to timber exploitation) due to land use legacies. The expansion of NF may affect in turn biodiversity and key ecosystem functions and services (habitat provision, fragmentation, carbon sequestration), yet vulnerability of NF to CC has been seldom explored. NEWFORLAND is aimed to analyse NF expansion in the Iberian Peninsula under Global Change (GC) from a multiscale perspective.

The main objectives are: (1) to carry out a detailed spatiotemporal analysis of the driving forces of forest expansion and to provide this information to planners and managers in a clear way; (2) to evaluate the ecological role of NF and their provision of ecosystem functions and services; (3) to assess the vulnerability of NF to CC; and (4) to deliver forest open data and web services to scientists, decision-makers and society (e-laboratory).

The 1st objective starts by improving climate and general LC geodatabases, both in geographic and temporal extent, and with a NF map development from remote sensing (RS); CC and LC metrics will be developed, and main driving forces of NF transitions from abandoned croplands analysed. In the 2nd objective, we will explore the effects of new forest establishment on landscape properties and ecological connectivity. The 3rd objective starts with a broad study of growth and vulnerability to climate memory indices of new and pre-existing forest across the Iberian Peninsula. The last objective will produce and deliver datasets with information on the forest-global change interaction in a targeted format for planners and managers.

 Job position description:

The PhD candidate will develop a Reassessment of landscape change and forest dynamics through the integration of Spatial Statistics and Geographic Information Systems.  Standing on the current state-of-the-art in Geographical Information Science and Technology, Spatial Statistics, Landscape Ecology, and Forest Ecology, he/she will assess and model landscape structure and dynamics (e.g. topology, velocity an acceleration of change) at contrasting scales (local, Iberian, European) on the framework of the NF expansion mentioned above. Both traditional and recent RS data (e.g. satellite and drone images) and consolidated software tools (e.g. Fragstats, MaxEnt, R, QGIS, MiraMon) will be used for topological analysis, map algebra, geostatistics, etc., in combination with forest ecology to provide ideas (and eventually code) for the dissertation progress. New concepts and tools (including implementation) will be developed within the PhD, aimed as being new references for Forest Ecologists, Land Managers, Geographers, Civil Engineers, etc.

Candidates must demonstrate a background in Biology, Environmental Biology, Environmental Sciences or similar, and clear interest and some background for Terrestrial/Forest Ecology and for GIS/RS/Spatial analysis or similar disciplines. Besides, some experience in GIS computer programming will be welcome; in any case, these skills, that can be learnt from the experience of the research team, are also needed as this project aims at applying its own proposals.

Life history variation and the non-random loss of biological diversity in human-altered habitats


Dr.Daniel Sol


Research Project / Research Group Description:

The alteration of habitats by human activities is considered one of the most important drivers of current biodiversity loss. However, anticipating community shifts has proved challenging owing to our insufficient understanding of how organisms respond to environmental changes. Life history theory provides a framework to resolve this scientific conundrum. The life history of an organism reflects trade-offs that change the optimal combination of traits such as fecundity, survival and growth that directly links fitness and population dynamics to their environments. While life history theory has achieved important successes in predicting the response of organisms to habitat alterations, we argue here that to help develop a more predictive theory we need to advance in three insufficiently understood topics: 1) Does variation in life history affect individual fitness and population dynamics of animals in human-altered habitats? 2) Are behavioural responses part of the life history strategy of animals that successfully cope with habitat alterations? And 3) how does the varying sensitivity of animals due to differences in their life history impact on the diversity and structure of communities? We propose to address these questions in the context of agriculture and urban alterations at different levels of analyses by means of a multidisciplinary approach using a variety of avian and insect study systems. The results will contribute to reduce current discrepancies between the rates of species extinction predicted by models and the extinction rates actually recorded, as well as to inform environmental policies to mitigate the current loss of biodiversity and associated ecosystem services.

Daniel Sol is currently a Senior Research Scientist at the CSIC. His research programme seeks to understand how animals respond to changes, combining theoretical models, experiments and comparatives approaches. His publication record includes 95 SCI papers (H-index of 44, source: GS)

Job position description:

The proposed research will be carried out by combining molecular analyses, field observations, field experiments, phylogenetic comparative analyses, remote sensing data and individual-based modelling. We will address our research questions using birds, a group that has been at the forefront of the development of a mechanistic understanding of the function of life-history in natural contexts. We will do field work in Mediterranean agro-forestry systems (mostly located in Lleida and the Guadalquivir Valley), characterized mainly by a marked seasonal and annual fluctuations in primary production. Specifically, we will study avian populationd that breed in artificial colonies (16 towers, with around 30 nest boxes each) or solitary nest boxes (>100) distributed across habitats differing in the degree of alteration by agriculture practices.

Global change adaptation in Mediterranean basins


Dr.Javier Retana


Research Project / Research Group Description:

The position is linked to the LIFE MIDMACC project (2019-2024), which is focused on climate change adaptation of the Mediterranean forest landscapes.  The main objective of the project is to promote adaptation through the implementation and testing of different landscape management measures to meet climate change related challenges in forest areas of Mediterranean river-basins, specially drought increase. Several demonstration activities are performed in selected watersheds where adaptation measures in forest management are tested and some ecosystem service indicators are monitored. As a result, the project contributes to quantify and assess the impacts of adaptive measures implementation and upscale them to river basin level. The project outcomes will be transferred to land managers and policy implementers, allowing public authorities to be fully aware of the environmental benefits of the project, advising them to revise their policies and plans accordingly.

In 2008 CREAF started a new research line called Water and Global Change focused on the assessment of regional vulnerabilities to global change on water use and developing adaptation measures. This group coordinates the projects. Moreover, this team is leading several demonstration activities in Catalonia related to climate change adaptation in the filed of water and forests. Relevant experiences in the proposal domain: CLICO: Climate Change, Hydro-conflicts and Human Security (2010-2012, FP7); ACCUA: Climate Change Adaptation in Water Use (2008-2010, La Caixa private funding); MONTES: Los montes españoles y el cambio global: amenazas y oportunidades (CONSOLIDER, 2008-2013); BEWATER: Making society an active participant in water adaptation to global change (FP7 2013-2017); LIFE MEDACC: Adapting the Mediterranean to climate change (2013-2018); SUDOE MONTCLIMA: Climate and natural risks in SUDOE mountains (2019-2022).

Job position description:

The position will be focused on;

1.      Upscaling of hydrological processes at river basin level. Hydrological modelling under climate change and land use scenarios to assess current and future river basin vulnerabilities.

2.      Design and monitoring of adaptation measures in agro-sylvo-pastoral systems. Analysis of results, effectiveness assessment of the adaptation measures to reduce the vulnerability of Mediterranean river basins to climate change.

3.      Science into policy. Transference of knowledge to policy making to be included in future policy and planning under global change scenarios.


  • Bachelor degree in forest, biological or environmental science
  • Skills in hydrology and in the use of hydrological models (e.g., SWAT)
  • Advanced skills in statistics and programming (R)
  • English level (minimum B2)
  • Availability to make field work

Data-driven assessment of global patterns in tree drought responses and forest water use


Dr.Rafael Poyatos


Research Project / Research Group Description:

Plant transpiration plays a dual role in Earth System functioning. It is the main terrestrial evaporative flux and its control by vegetation underlies drought responses of plants. Forests dominate these transpiration fluxes but they are also highly vulnerable to the impacts of increasing drought conditions under global change. Therefore, understanding how forests regulate transpiration in response to variations in evaporative demand and soil moisture supply is paramount to assess the global variation in woody plant drought response strategies and to quantify the magnitudes and drivers of forest transpiration globally. Whole-tree transpiration data from sap flow measurements provide a link between tree-level transpiration regulation and forest transpiration fluxes.  We, the Ecophys (Ecosystem Physiology and Global Change) group at CREAF, have assembled the first global database of tree transpiration from sap flow measurements (SAPFLUXNET) containing >107 half-hourly observations of sap flow data for 202 sites and 175 species. This database, contributed by > 150 researchers from all over the World, is currently the best data source for temporal patterns in plant water use, holds data for a total of >2 milion tree-days and covers all the major vegetated biomes. Within the Ecophys group, Dr. Rafael Poyatos coordinates the SAPFLUXNET initiative and is the principal investigator of the new DATAFORUSE project, where he collaborates with other Ecophys researchers: Profs. Jordi Martínez-Vilalta and Maurizio Mencuccini (group leaders), Dr. Víctor Granda and PhD candidate Víctor Flo. Dr. Poyatos also holds a Humboldt fellowship at the Max-Planck Institute in Jena, Germany to collaborate in the upscaling of forest transpiration fluxes based on SAPFLUXNET.

 Job position description:

This PhD project is framed within the SAPFLUXNET initiative and its continuing project DATAFORUSE (November 2019-October 2022). In this project, the PhD candidate will take advantage of SAPFLUXNET, the first global database of tree transpiration from sap flow measurements, to characterise the worldwide variation in tree and forest water use and to identify its main environmental drivers across time and space. The main goals of this project are: (1) to quantify water use resilience from time series of tree transpiration and thus improve our understanding of the temporal dimension of tree drought responses, (2) to develop procedures to upscale tree-level sap flow to forest stand transpiration combining the SAPFLUXNET database and other available data sources (remote sensing, forest inventories), and (3) to quantify forest transpiration globally and to investigate its biotic and abiotic drivers. To achieve these goals, the PhD candidate will make use of an extensive data infrastructure developed during previous projects at CREAF. This data infrastructure is conformed by the actual database, a dedicated server and several R software packages developed by our group to work with SAPFLUXNET data. All these components have been designed with an open science perspective and are therefore publicly accessible (data published in Zenodo and software in Github repositories). The PhD thesis would be supervised by Rafael Poyatos and Jordi Martínez-Vilalta, with the possibility that the PhD candidate visits other international leading institutions in the field of ecology and biogeosciences, such as the Max-Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Jena (Germany). It is desirable that the PhD candidate has a background on plant physiological ecology and programming skills to work with large databases.

COS4CLOUD – Co-designed Citizen Observatories Services for the EOS-Cloud


Dr.Joan Masó Pau


Research Project / Research Group Description:

Horizon 2020 COS4CLOUD project (Co-designed citizen observatories for the EOS-Cloud) aims to design, prototyped and implemented services that address the Open Science challenges shared by Citizen observatories of biodiversity, based on the experience of platforms like: Artportalen, Natusfera, iSpot, as well as other environmental quality monitoring platforms like: FreshWater Watch, KdUINO, OdourCollect, iSpex and CanAir.io. The innovative services will be designed, prototyped and implemented for improving the data and information quality using deep machine learning, automatic video recognition, advanced mobile app interfaces, and other cutting-edge technologies, based on data models and data protocols validated by traditional science. The new services will provide mechanisms to ensure the visibility and recognition of data contributors and the tools to improve networking between various stakeholders. Novel innovative digital services will be developed through the integration of CS products, generated by different providers, following open standards to ensure their interoperability, and offered in agile, fit-for-purpose and sustainable site available through EOSC hub, including a discovery service, to both traditional and citizen scientists. The design of new services will be user oriented, engaging a wide range of stakeholders in society, government, industry, academia, agencies, and research to co-design service requirements. As a result, COS4CLOUD will integrate citizen science in the European Open Science Cloud, bringing Citizen Science (CS) projects as a service for the scientific community and society at large.

The project has been financed by the European Union with 5 999 055.75 Euro and is coordinated by Agencia Estatal del Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas. CREAF is one of the 14 participants of the project.

 Job position description:

The PhD offered in the context of COS4CLOUD aims at providing Citizen Observatories of biodiversity with a scientist voluntary system to generate knowledge that will be based on the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) (https://www.opengeospatial.org/)  standard Geospatial User Feedback (GUF) data model. Until now, GUF has been used in several implementations promoted by international science projects such as H2020 NextGEOSS, H2020 LandSense or H2020 ECOPOTENTIAL through the NiMMbus solution. NiMMbus allows to provide comments, ratings, questions, etc that can be associated with geospatial assets on a catalogue using a data/metadata identifier. COS4CLOUD will go further and the PhD candidate will design a new architecture based on the improvement and extension of GUF model to address specific and essential elements that will create and allow having a Citizen Observatories knowledge database. The design will deal with the inexistent connection between OGC standards and scientific biodiversity models. The architecture designed will be implemented by the PhD starting from the existent NiMMbus. The candidate will have to test the resulting system with scientists involved in biodiversity studies such as in GEO-ECO initiative (Group on Earth Observations) or in the Sustainable Development Goals 15 (SDG 15) Life on Land, allowing the candidate to learn how to incentive users and how to create bridges with technology and users by doing capacity building.

Behavioural and populational effects of authorized fungicide sprays on insect pollinators


Dr.Jordi Bosch


Research Project

Research Group Description:

Declines in wild and managed bee populations have been reported worldwide and partly attributed to pesticide use. Before being authorized, pesticides undergo a stringent risk assessment process. Therefore, assuming risk assessment schemes are adequate, poisoning incidents should be rare. Yet, bee poisoning events are by no means uncommon. During studies on orchard pollination with the solitary bee Osmia cornuta we have repeatedly observed that, following fungicide sprays, females are unable to recognize their nest and interrupt their nesting activity, resulting in dramatic population losses.  In general, fungicide sprays are considered non-toxic to bees and are fully authorized during bloom. We have confirmed in laboratory studies that the fungicides involved in these incidents are not toxic at field application rates. We have also conducted cage studies, but have not been able to reproduce the results observed in orchards. Our first hypothesis is that the behavioural effects observed are caused by the mixture of the fungicides sprayed and background insecticide residues, which are commonly found in the pollen and nectar of fruit tree flowers in commercial orchards. This hypothesis is based on our laboratory results showing synergistic effects between sublethal doses of insecticides and fungicides. Osmia females use olfactory marks from an abdominal secretion to recognize their nest. Our second hypothesis is that fungicide-insecticide mixtures elicit a loss of olfactory capacity/memory. We are testing the two above-mentioned hypothesis at field-realistic pesticide levels. We are also analyzing the effects of orchard management (IPM vs organic) on Osmia population dynamics and pollinator visitation rates. Our project has important environmental implications because fungicides are routinely applied during bloom on insect-pollinated crops across the world under the assumption they are safe for pollinators. Our project also has potential consequences on pollination.

 Job position description:

We are looking for candidates to conduct a PhD dissertation on bee ecotoxicology. Applicants should hold a master’s degree in in a research field relevant to the project and have a strong interest in sustainable agriculture, pest management, pollinator conservation and insect behaviour. Selected candidates will join an international team working on pollinator toxicology with emphasis on solitary bees (Osmia spp.). Candidates will be responsible for conducting laboratory, semi-field (cage) and field experiments to understand the effects of realistic combinations of pesticides on populations of wild and managed pollinators. Candidates are expected to complete their dissertation, write relevant publications and participate in international conferences within the duration of the PhD program.

Anthropogenic global changes in bioelemental stocks and flows and their impacts on nature and humans (BIOELEMENTAL)


Prof.Josep Peñuelas


Research Project / Research Group Description:

Bioelements are accepted to be a crucial determinant of biodiversity, ecosystem functioning, and food production and quality (among others), but have never been studied in an integrated manner. The availability of C from rising atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and of N from various human-induced inputs to ecosystems is continuously increasing; however, these increases are not paralleled by a similar increase in other elements such as P or K. The inexorable change in the stoichiometry of C and N relative to P and K, but also among the other bioelements has no equivalent in Earth’s history. The global implications of the increasing changes in bioelements fluxes and stocks remain a virtually unexplored research field, yet of high relevance to life, the Earth system, and society.

With BIOELEMENTAL we aim to 1) identify and quantify these global change-driven changes in elementomes (elemental content) in environment (soils and waters), organisms, ecosystems and agroecosystems; 2) find out and codify the profound and yet uncertain effects of these biogeochemical and stoichiometrical environmental changes for the elemental composition, structure and functioning of organisms, communities and ecosystems, and human food security and health; 3) identify and develop options to improve the recycling and management of the N, P, K, Ca, Mg and S cycles to avoid as much as possible the global nutrient imbalances, especially N:P, N:K, and P:K and their negative impacts.

Observation, experimentation, and modelling, and especially data synthesis at different temporal and spatial scales will establish a novel observation-based knowledge on how elementomes of organisms, ecosystems and food are affected by human activity and by global change, and on how they will feedback on climate and human appropriation of land and on human food security and health. We will thus be able, for the first time, to evaluate, control, predict, and provide possible solutions to the anthropogenic imbalances

Job position description:

The PhD student will focus her/his thesis on analyzing the profound and yet uncertain effects of human-driven elemental (N, P, K, Ca, Mg and S) and stoichiometrical (especially N:P, N:K, and P:K) changes on the elemental composition, structure and functioning of organisms, communities and ecosystems, and human food security and health.

The PhD student will use observation, experimentation, and modelling, and especially data synthesis at different temporal and spatial scales to analyze how elementomes of organisms, ecosystems and food are affected by human activity and by global change, and on how they will feedback on climate and human appropriation of land and on human food security and health. She/he will thus be able, for the first time, to evaluate, control, predict, and provide possible solutions to the anthropogenic imbalances in the elementomes and their effects on environment, organisms, natural ecosystems and human food and health

Anthropicand climatic effects on large ungulates in mountain ecosystems


Dr.Bernat Claramunt López


Research Project / Research Group Description:

Climate change is expected to be the major threat to biodiversity and one of the main factors affecting human health in the coming decades. Mountains occur on all continents, covering 27% of the world’s land surface, and provide goods and services to people living outside their ranges. Mountains support a large portion of the world’s biological diversity and are among the most threatened by global change (also recognized in the Rio+20 resolution). Mountain environments are among the most threatened by global warming, e.g. in the last 35 years the Pyrenees have lost 50% of their glaciers. Mountain environments are also suffering and abandonment of human traditional practices related to livestock and agricultural, and the disappearance of human populations have contrasting effects on biodiversity. The main objective of this project is to detect how alpine communities respond to global change, both taking into account the changing environmental conditions and the contrasting effects of land use by humans. The project aims at monitoring the spatio-temporal variation of diverse taxonomic groups at the mid-to-high altitudinal range, and focuses on different specific indicators of change: soil organic matter, natural pastoral communities, tree growth, tree establishment, small mammals biodiversity, passerine birds biology, large mammals, arthropod communities, and mushroom biodiversity. Research activities are carried out during expeditions in spring, summer and autumn.

The project has been running in the Andorran Pyrenees since 2016, it will run until 2021 and will most likely be extended at least until 2024. The project is funded by the Earthwatch Institute, an organization that facilitates the participation of volunteers of all around the world in research projects. So far, more than 700 volunteers have come to the Pyrenees to help the research team carry out data collection. The research team of this project is formed by two senior scientists and 5 field technicians.

Job position description:

The Anthropocene is described as the time dating from the commencement of human impact on the Earth’s ecosystems. Habitat fragmentation, pollution, deforestation, land use changes and illegal trade are just some of the pillars of the global change which is increasingly threatening species diversity and richness, changes that lead to a dominance imbalance and a loss of ecosystem functions. In this globally human-dominated landscape, it is inconceivable not to take human beings and their activities into account when studying and conserving nature, Among all of the species affected by anthropic pressures, larger ones such as ungulates have lower population densities, slower life histories and larger home ranges, and all these traits increase their threat level. Herbivore ungulates play an important role in the communities that they inhabit, in most cases maintaining grassland plant diversity. In particular, large herbivores have a strong effect on plant communities’ dynamics such as reducing dominant species, transporting seeds, facilitating plant regeneration or changing soil nutrient availability.

The main objective of this PhD thesis will be assessing how both the anthropic pressure and the environment affect the three most common large herbivores in the Pyrenees: the roe deer (a forest species), the Pyrenean chamois (an alpine species), and the wild boar (a widespread species). To do so, the candidate will use data from 60 camera traps that are installed in 12 high elevation sites since 2016, from May to November, in the Andorran Pyrenees; she/he will participate in the field work to collect data and characterize the sites, and will also make extended use of satellite data (using, among others, novel technologies such as Google Earth Engine). The candidate will also need to learn advances statistical techniques such as hierarchical modeling using Bayesan statistics with R packages such as rStan.

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