PhD project offered by the IMPRS-gBGC in

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Project description

“Tree-grass” systems include vegetation formations such as tropical and Mediterranean savannas, the “waldsteppe” in Eurasia as well as strongly culturally influenced vegetation types such as certain agro-forestry systems or grazed open-forests in Europe.
Despite their wide distribution, Earth observation systems and earth system modeling development have been so far poorly adapted to their key structural and functional characteristics. Biosphere-atmosphere interaction in tree-grass systems is primarily driven by the complementary behavior of the trees and the herbaceous layer in response to key environmental factors such as water-availability, nutrient status, fire and grazing animals.
Nutrient availability, and in particular stoichiometric imbalance (C-N-P ratios) is supposed to affect ecosystem structure and functioning, in particular in water-limited ecosystems such as Mediterranean mixed herbaceous/tree ecosystems. Continuous hyperspectral remote sensing information are crucial to monitor the dynamics of canopy structure and, after the recent instrumental developments, vegetation functioning. However, for the operational use of this data there is still subject to uncertainty related to the different confounding factors that act at different temporal scale. Understanding the temporal dynamic of optical signals and its relationship with ecosystem functioning and properties is fundamental to develop a new generation of models able to ingest data from future satellite missions.
The PhD project will focus on the understanding of the temporal dynamics of optical signals related to the development of plant traits and ecosystem functioning.
The PhD candidate will explore the potential of using high temporal resolution hyperspectral information collected to detect changes in ecosystem functioning, and their response to environmental conditions, in 3 different tree/grass ecosystem under different nutrient availability. Specifically the PhD will collaborate in:
  1. An international research group in the collection of a long-term datataset of spectral measurements coupled with ecosystem CO2 and water fluxes.
  2. Analysis of the different confounding factors (structure vs physiology) affecting the photochemical reflectance index (PRI) and solar induce fluorescence signal (SIF).
  3. Understanding the role of structure (e.g. plant forms composition, functional traits) and physiology (biochemical properties) in determining the functional relationship between CO2 uptake and SIF signal.
The ideal candidate should be willing to work periodically in the field and interested in working with eddy covariance flux data and radiative transfer models such as SCOPE.

Possible collaboration

BGI department, University of Milan-Bicocca


Applications to the IMPRS-gBGC are open to well-motivated, team-oriented and highly-qualified students from all countries. Prerequisites for this PhD project are:
  • a Master degree in a discipline related to the environmental sciences with a strong quantitative/computational background (e.g. geoecology, environmental science, biogeochemistry, biology, applied mathematics, physics
  • basic knowledge/experience of field measurements (in particular eddy covariance and possibly field spectroscopy)
  • interest or experience with process modeling or data analysis with script languages (Matlab, R, Python) or other programming languages
  • readiness to work in the field together with other PhD candidates in the group
  • good expression in English (spoken and written)

After you have been selected

The IMPRS-gBGC office will happily assist you with your transition to Jena.
The conditions of employment, including upgrades and duration follow the rules of the Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science and those of the German civil service. The gross monthly income amounts about 2000 EUR, which will cover all your expenses in Germany.
The Max Planck Society seeks to increase the number of women in those areas where they are underrepresented and therefore explicitly encourages women to apply. The Max Planck society is committed to increasing the number of individuals with disabilities in its workforce and therefore encourages applications from such qualified individuals.

Image of the eddy covariance towers at Majadas del Tietar (the experimental site).
Image of the eddy covariance towers at Majadas del Tietar (the experimental site).

>> more information about the IMPRS-gBGC + application