PhD Positions - Join the WildDrone Team

University of Southern Denmark
January 10, 2023
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PhD Positions - Join the WildDrone Team PhD Positions - Join the WildDrone Team

Are you highly motivated to conduct impactful research? Would you like to collaborate with a diverse group of scientists to improve wildlife conservation practices?

We are looking for 12 Doctoral Candidates to join the “WildDrone - A utonomous Drones for Nature Conservation Missions ” Marie-Skłodowska-Curie Doctoral Network.

The overarching aim of WildDrone is to revolutionize wildlife conservation practices by integrating the fields of aerial robotics , computer vision , and wildlife ecology , using autonomous drone technology as a unifying platform. Expanding on the existing doctoral programs, the candidates will form an interdisciplinary network of researchers working across European and African countries.

Each of the 12 candidates will conduct research based in one of the three main subject areas of WildDrone. The candidates will work together within the WildDrone network and engage in multi-disciplinary training-by-research to develop technology in close collaboration with end-users.

The WildDrone consortium encompasses 20 partners across 10 countries in Europe, Africa and North America united in the common goal of benefiting wildlife. The Doctoral Candidates will be spread throughout 7 European countries working in both academic institutions and industrial companies:

  • University of Southern Denmark (DK)
  • Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior (DE)
  • University of Münster (DE)
  • WIPSEA (FR)
  • Wageningen University (NL)
  • Fondazione Bruno Kessler (IT)
  • Avy B.V. (NL)
  • Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (CH)
  • University of Bristol (UK)
  • In addition to these partners, the network includes Kenyatta University (Kenya), Ol Pejeta (wildlife reserve, Kenya), National Park Wadden Sea (wildlife reserve, Denmark), Kuzikus African Safaris (wildlife reserve, Namibia), KBR - an international high-technology company, Danish EPA environmental agency, BBC news outlet, WWF international wildlife foundation, and Danish Agriculture & Food Council, that have teamed up to establish a coordinated effort on researcher training in digital nature conservation.

    All candidates will be expected to:

  • work in a multidisciplinary team in an international environment
  • have a deep interest in research and science
  • possess outstanding research potential, as demonstrated by scientific accomplishments (e.g., quality of thesis, code repositories, conference presentations, outreach activities or publications)
  • have excellent communication skills in English, verbally as well as in scientific writing
  • be willing to undertake international secondments, internships, and travels
  • Please note that these expectations provide a framework for the role and should not be regarded as a definitive list. Other reasonable expectations and duties may be required consistent with the specific PhD project itself.

    Details about the network as a whole, its scientific content and the application and selection process, can be found on wilddrone.eu/recruitment

    Additional information

    We are searching for a diverse group of candidates with very different backgrounds and qualities, who inspire and motivate each other. We want every talent to feel at home in our organisations and be offered the same career opportunities. We especially welcome applicants from populations that are disproportionately underrepresented in the research fields of aerial robotics, computer vision, or wildlife ecology, and related industries, including applicants from the African continent, where many planned research activities will take place. The only limit is the MSCN mobility rule, dependent on the country of the hosting institution - ‘No residence or main activity (work, studies etc.) in the country of the recruiting beneficiary for more than 12 months in the 36 months before their recruitment date'.

    WE OFFER:

  • Salary consisting of living allowance (EUR 3400), mobility allowance (EUR 600), family allowance (if applicable, EUR 600). Long-term leave allowance (EUR 4000) and special needs allowance are offered if applicable. A country correction coefficient applies to the living allowance in order to ensure equal treatment and purchasing power parity for all researchers. Salary rules apply to the doctoral candidates hosted in the European Union. Separate salary rules are applicable for doctoral candidates hosted in United Kingdom and Switzerland. https: // ec.europa.eu/info/funding- tenders/opportunities/docs/2021-2027/horizon/wp-call/2021-2022/wp-2-msca- actionshorizon-2021-2022en.pdf

  • working hours that can be discussed and arranged so that they allow for the best possible work-life balance.

  • The guaranteed PhD funding is for 36 months (i.e., EC funding, additional funding is possible, depending on the local Supervisor, and in accordance with the regular PhD time in the country of origin). In addition to their individual scientific projects, all fellows will benefit from further continuing education, which includes internships and secondments, a variety of training modules as well as transferable skills acquired through a unique immersive learning environment.

    The application must include:

  • Motivated two-page application letter: one-page general motivation for WildDrone and one page motivating your interest in specific DC projects (at most 3).
  • Detailed Curriculum Vitae (including contact information to 2-3 references, and list of publications if relevant).
  • Certificates/ Diplomas (MSc).
  • Scientific writing sample (e.g., publication or thesis chapter)
  • WildDrone application form available at eu/application-form/
  • The recruitment procedure will be divided into 2 stages. In the first stage, recruitment committees for each subject area will evaluate candidate qualifications based on the application materials. All candidates will be informed whether they advance to stage 2. Project supervisors will evaluate the remaining candidates for their project, and the top candidates for each DC project will be invited for online interviews. References for the top candidates will be contacted at this stage. Interviews are tentatively expected to be held in late February 2023.

    The application deadline is 10.01.2023.

    Doctoral Candidate Descriptions

    Thematic area 1: Conservation Ecology

    DC1: Scouting drones to prevent human-wildlife conflict in livestock grazing systems

    Focus: Collect data and develop models necessary to develop a drone-based method for detecting threats along planned livestock grazing routes and predicting whether the behaviour and movement of the threatening species is likely to lead to an encounter with the livestock herd.

    Planned Secondments: Ol Pejeta Conservancy (Kenya); fieldwork and data collection (twice).

    Principal Supervisor: Blair Costelloe – Postdoctoral Fellow, Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior

    Academic Supervisor: Professor Martin Wikelski, Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior

    Main hosting site: Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior (Germany), the Ph.D. degree will be awarded by University of Konstanz (Germany).

    DC2: On the wings of a stork: revealing the dynamics of soaring environments

    Focus: Understand how flight conditions for large migratory birds vary with time and season by combining real-life 3D bird tracking with drone and computer vision technology. We will use drones to autonomously gather data on terrain, land use, and other environmental factors to explore the dynamic environment that birds fly through.

    Planned Secondments: Bruno Kessler Foundation (Italy) investigating real- time flight plan computations on drones; University of Münster (Germany) investigating the use of low-altitude images to create topological ground maps.

    Principal Supervisor: Andrea Flack, Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior

    Academic Supervisor: Professor Martin Wikelski, Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior

    Main hosting site: Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior (Germany), the Ph.D. will be awarded by University of Konstanz (Germany)

    DC4: Tracking cetaceans in coastal areas

    Focus: Study the possibility to use drones and real time deep learning techniques to assist Marine Mammal Observers in detecting and tracking cetaceans near offshore work sites to reduce impact on these species.

    Planned Secondments: University of Souther Denmark (Denmark); training for fieldwork. Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior (Germany); behavioural data analysis.

    Project Supervisor: Gwénaël Duclos, WIPSEA

    Academic Supervisor: Magnus Wahlberg – Associate Professor, University of Southern Denmark

    Main hosting site: WIPSEA (France), the Ph.D. will be awarded by University of Southern Denmark (Denmark)

    DC8: Drone-based behavioral studies and abundance/body condition estimates of marine mammals and birds

    Focus: Developing drone techniques to monitor marine mammal and marine bird populations.

    Planned Secondments: Ol Pejeta Conservancy (Kenya); extended field experiments for secondary data collection. Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior (Germany); data analysis.

    Principal Supervisor: Henrik Skov Midtiby - Associate Professor, University of Southern Denmark

    Academic Supervisor: Magnus Wahlberg – Associate Professor, University of Southern Denmark

    Main hosting site: University of Southern Denmark (Denmark)

    Thematic area 2: Safe and Flexible Drone Operations

    DC5: VTOL drone noise profile optimization for its impact on animal behaviour

    Focus: Make use or develop a range of bespoke noise mitigation methods to reduce or alter the noise signature of the drone. The PhD student will conduct drone exposure experiments with captive animals to assess their ability to detect novel drone systems and their strength of responses.

    Planned Secondments: University of Southern Denmark (Denmark); initial methodology and experiments. University of Bristol (UK); anechoic wind tunnel experiments and captive animals' assessment with BZS (twice).

    Project Supervisor: Matthijs Damen, AVY

    Academic Supervisors: Professor Ulrik Pagh Schultz Lundquist, University of Southern Denmark, Associate Professor Dylan Cawthorne, University of Southern Denmark

    Main hosting site: AVY BV (Netherlands), the Ph.D. will be awarded by University of Southern Denmark (Denmark)

    DC6: Automated planning of safe, multi-drone nature conservation missions

    Focus: Model complex drone-based nature conservation missions involving multiple drones operating over an extended period of time, allowing specific missions to be carried out automatically based on high-level end-user specification provided through an interactive tool, while safety aspects of the specific mission are documented using through Bow-Tie Diagrams (BTDs), risk maps, and declarative rules, and adaptation to dynamic conditions such as tracking of moving animals is handled automatically.

    Planned Secondments: KBR Wyle Services, LLC (USA); use of AdvoCATE methodology. University of Bristol (UK); integration with parasitic drone concept.

    Principal Supervisor: Professor Anders Christensen, University of Southern Denmark

    Academic Supervisor: Professor Ulrik Pagh Schultz Lundquist, University of Southern Denmark

    Main hosting site: University of Southern Denmark (Denmark)

    DC7: Safe BVLOS operation of drones for nature conservation

    Focus: Establish the technological and operational setup for safe autonomous BVLOS flights for nature conservation missions.

    Planned Secondments: KBR Wyle Services, LLC (USA); use of AdvoCATE methodology. Kenyatta University (Kenya); UTM experiments.

    Principal Supervisor: Associate Professor Kjeld Jensen, University of Southern Denmark

    Academic Supervisor: Professor Ulrik Pagh Schultz Lundquist, University of Southern Denmark

    Main hosting site: University of Southern Denmark (Denmark)

    DC13: Parasitic Drones for Individual Identification

    Focus: Employ larger fixed-wing drones/UAS for surveys, releasing and recovering smaller aerial robots for efficient multiviewpoint capture and high-resolution close-up photography of individual animals.

    Planned Secondments: University of Münster (Germany); integration with computer vision subsystem. AVY (Netherlands); experiments and integration with the Avy platform.

    Principal Supervisor: Professor Thomas Richardson, University of Bristol

    Main hosting site: University of Bristol (United Kingdom)

    Thematic Area 3: Computer Vision for Conservation

    DC9: Detecting posture, metrics and biometrics of animals from drone data

    Focus: Investigate and develop new solutions for autonomous planning of drone flights and automated scene interpretation based on AI methods.

    Planned Secondments: University of Bristol (UK); flight planning, flight dynamics. University of Münster (Germany); tracking, segmentation, SLAM.

    Principal Supervisor: Professor Fabio Remondino, Bruno Kessler Foundation

    Academic Supervisor: Professor Benjamin Risse, University of Münster

    Main hosting site: Fondazione Bruno Kessler (Italy), the Ph.D. will be awarded by University of Münster (Germany)

    DC10: Reconstructing natural habitats from multimodal drone measurements

    Focus: Combining multi-modal drone data into a novel pipeline which explicitly addresses a variety of challenges of terrain reconstructions using machine learning and computer vision techniques.

    Planned Secondments: Kuzikus African Safaris PTY; data collection and field evaluation. AVY (Netherlands); experimental evaluation using the Avy drone platform.

    Principal Supervisor: Professor Benjamin Risse, University of Münster

    Main hosting site: University of Münster (Germany)

    DC11: Interactive census monitoring: the accurate, the generic and the rare

    Focus: Explore the generalization strength of animal detectors based on drone imagery to increase robustness to variations in acquisition conditions and observation of rare sights, thus highlighting requirements for stronger domain shifts and enablers for population mapping.

    Planned Secondments: Kuzikus African Safaris PTY; deploying the prototype. Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior (Germany); using the system for population estimations.

    Principal Supervisor: Professor Devis Tuia, EPFL Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne.

    Main hosting site: EPFL Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (Switzerland), working place will be on the Sion campus of EPFL. The PhD will be awarded by EPFL (Switzerland).

    DC12: Adaptive tracking for detection and identification

    Focus: Determine a suitable base architecture for onboard animal detection and identification given onboard GPU constraints and real-time requirements.

    Planned Secondments: University of Münster (Germany); real-time computer vision. EPFL (Switzerland); open-set recognition solution.

    Principal Supervisor: Tilo Burghardt – Senior Lecturer, University of Bristol

    Academic Supervisor: Professor Thomas Richardson, University of Bristol

    Main hosting site: University of Bristol (United Kingdom)

    Contact information Further information about this position is available from Professor Ulrik Pagh Schultz, phone: +4565503570, email: ups@mmmi.sdu.dk.

    If you experience technical problems you must contact support-sdujob@sdu.dk.

    Conditions of employment at SDU Applicants are required to have a master's degree (equivalent to a Danish master's degree) at the time of enrollment and employment.

    Employment of a PhD fellow can only happen after the Head of the PhD School has approved the candidate for admission to the PhD school. Employment and enrollment will cease without further notice at the end of the period.

    A PhD fellow is not allowed to have any kind of sideline employment, while enrolled as PhD fellow at the faculty.

    Employment is governed by the Protocol on PhD Research Fellows signed by the Danish Ministry of Finance and the Danish Confederation of Professional Associations. Please check links for more information on salary and taxation.

    The successful candidate will be enrolled at SDU in accordance with Faculty regulations and the Danish Ministerial Order on the PhD Programme at the Universities (PhD order), read more here.

    The assessment process at SDU Read about the Assessment and selection process. Shortlisting may be used.

    Application procedure at SDU The Faculty expects applicants to read the Faculty information for prospective PhD students and the SDU information on How to apply before applying.

    The University wishes our staff to reflect the diversity of society and thus welcomes applications from all qualified candidates regardless of personal background.

    Campus: Odense

    Application deadline: 10/01/2023

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