PhD project offered by the IMPRS-gBGC in

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Project description

Understanding the environmental controls and feedbacks on soil and vegetation dynamics is key to understand the present and future interactions between terrestrial ecosystems and the Earth System. The integration of theory into different modeling approaches aims at improving our reasoning, diagnostic and extrapolation of ecosystem functioning in space and time. To this end, the growing volume of different observational streams sets up a unique opportunity to contrast the underlying theory embedded in models and real world observations.
The PhD project will focus on exploring the information content of multiple observational streams in providing a multivariate constraint on model behavior in diagnosing carbon and water fluxes and states at ecosystem level. In particular, through exploring
  1. multiple data streams for parameter optimization, including ecosystem fluxes and remote sensing of vegetation biophysical properties
  2. the inclusion of complexity and time varying errors in multivariate cost functions
  3. the improvement of modeling structures, namely integrating additional processes or exploring alternative formulations.
The research will focus on a complex semi-arid tree-grass ecosystem where an intensive observational effort has been take place in the last years. At the experimental sites a variety of data streams is monitored, including eddy covariance CO2, water and energy fluxes, seasonal variability of plant traits and soil properties, sap-flow fluxes, vegetation indices and chromatic coordinates from digital cameras. Finally, airborne hyperspectral information and terrestrial LIDAR data are collected once per year in dedicated fields campaigns. The data are collected in 3 sites with similar climate and different nutrient availability. In addition, the model-data-integration exercises could also inform the monitoring strategies on which additional observations would improve constraining and test hypothesis about describing ecosystem functioning.


Applications to the IMPRS-gBGC are open to well-motivated, collaborative and highly-qualified students from all countries. Prerequisites for this PhD project are:
  • a Master’s degree with a strong quantitative background and interest in global ecology (e.g. statistics, geo-ecology, environmental sciences, biology, applied mathematics, physics, or computer science)
  • experience in terrestrial ecosystem or hydrological modeling, optimization and inversion approaches
  • scientific programming skills
  • very good oral and written communication skills in English

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.

(a) Addressing equifinality considering multiple constraints approaches [Carvalhais et al 2010]; (b) Majadas Experimental site.
(a) Addressing equifinality considering multiple constraints approaches [Carvalhais et al 2010]; (b) Majadas Experimental site.

>> more information about the IMPRS-gBGC + application