Postdoc offer: Assessment of the distribution and connectivity in the honeycombworm Sabellaria alveolata

Closing date: 01 February 2018

Postdoc offer: IFREMER Brittany Center 12 months full-time

Project (REEHAB) background - Polychaete worms from the Sabellariidae family are common, tubiculous and gregarious, building biogenic constructions in tropical and temperate shallow systems. They are also known to provide a number of important ecosystem services, including coastal protection and important habitat for a wide range of organisms.

In Europe, Sabellaria alveolata is a common intertidal species, distributed from Morocco (North Africa) to Scotland. It is imperative to improve our understanding of these biogenic reefs so as to inform more effective management. Notably, Sabellaria reefs are among the key habitats listed under Annex I of the EU Habitats Directive. Monitoring reefs over time at a European scale is challenging but critical to implement EU directives and assess the ecological status of S. alveolata bioconstructions.

Consequently a European project (called REEHAB) launched in 2016 aims to to define and evaluate the ecological status and health of S. alveolata bioconstructions across Europe and to suggest guidelines for the application of protection and management of shores where those bioconstructions occur. This project is categorised into 4 complementary objectives.

Objective #1 - Produce maps of past and present distribution of Sabellaria alveolata bioconstructions in Europe; Objective #2 – Monitor S. alveolata bioconstructions and potential competitors with sustained observations; Objective #3 – Measure S. alveolata health through physiological metrics; Objective #4 – Establish how biotic and abiotic factors affect the distribution of S. alveolata and build connectivity maps across the distribution range of this species

Specific contract objectives

We are seeking for a postdoctoral fellow to address the REEHAB objective #4 and help build connectivity maps of this species using a hydrodynamic model (such as MARS 3D developed by IFREMER). The main objective is to characterize the effect of hydrodynamics on larval dispersal of Sabellaria alveolata and in addition produce connectivity maps as a key support tool for marine spatial planning. This postdoctoral project will benefit from biological data gathered from the REEHAB research group regarding past and present occurrence of the species, as well as data about its biology  (spawning female density and fecundity) and its larval ecology (larval lifespan, mortality rate). We will develop a mechanistic distribution model of this species, and refine model complexity and resolution in a step-wise manner. The geographic area will first be restricted to the MANGA configuration of the MARS3D hydrodynamical model covering the Bay of Biscay and the English Channel (including south of UK) with a spatial resolution of 4 x 4 km. Several fine-scale resolution zooms are available along the French coast (resolution of 500 x 500 m) and will be used if necessary. Merging this model with others (e.g. a larger scale model such as HYCOM or the Portuguese Coast Operational Modelling System (PCOMS) based on the MOHID model) will be considered based on the first results. Several scenarios will be explored to assess the sensitivity of connectivity patterns to larval lifespan, larval mortality and growth rates or settlement conditions.

Secondly, if time allows, a Dynamic Energy Budget (DEB) model of adult individuals will be implemented within a population dynamics model to capture the full life cycle of the species (adult and larval stage).
Such a framework would be valuable to account for changes in fecundity (over space and time) and simulate the long-term biogeographical dynamics of the species over  several generations. This integrated modelling will provide a framework to (1) hindcast the historical evolution of S. alveolata reefs and assess model performance against historical data, and (2) to predict broad distribution changes under climate change scenarios, and also to explore the influence of environmental parameters. Field data will be used to validate model predictions.

Besides publishing the work in a scientific journal, connectivity maps will help to identify – at least on the French coasts – the S. alveolata reefs that are critical to maintain regional connectivity. For instance, we aim to help prioritise management and protection of these biogenic reefs by ranking their importance in terms of their contribution to regional larval supply and to maintaining the network of subpopulations across the known distribution of the species. Ultimately, this project may assist in marine spatial planning and identification of candidate Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) or Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).

How to apply

Please send the following documents by email to:
Stanislas Dubois ( with cc to Martin Marzloff
( and Philippe Cugier
(1) A short curriculum vitae and a covering letter showing your interest and especially addressing your professional project;
(2) A list of your major works (2 pages max.): scientific publications, patents and other scientific productions;
(3) Letters of recommendation (not required);
(4) A copy of your PhD diploma (for doctors that have graduated from a French establishment, a link to the thesis notice in the SUDOC Catalogue or the French official portal is sufficient).

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