PhD project offered by the IMPRS-gBGC in July 2022


Integrating remote sensing and modeling approaches to assess carbon dynamics of a fertilized tree-grass ecosystem

Sung Ching Lee , Javier Pacheco-Labrador , Tarek El-Madany , Sönke Zaehle , Christiane Schmullius

Project description

Arid and semi-arid regions of the world cover more than 40% of the total land surface and they are responsible for up to 20% of terrestrial productivity. Our ability to accurately simulate biosphere-atmosphere interactions for these ecosystems remains uncertain. Moreover, nutrient availability is expected to appreciably affect ecosystem structure and functioning, in particular for Mediterranean tree-grass ecosystems. Thus it is critical to develop and test advanced modelling tools utilizing in situ and remotely- sensed observations. A new terrestrial biosphere model (QUINCY), which includes dynamics of carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus in soil and vegetation pools, has been recently developed. However, there is still a lack of understanding on different confounding factors that act at different temporal scales.

Project summary

By using data collected at three sites with varied nutrient availability in a tree-grass ecosystem, the PhD project will focus on providing better understanding of processes and relationships needed in the new terrestrial ecosystem model and hence to estimate ecosystem responses to different nutrient inputs. Specifically, the PhD will:
  1. Optimize the hyperspectral optical radiative transfer model or improve simulated spectral properties of senescent plant material in QUINCY.
  2. Develop data assimilation approaches to constrain model parameters related to phenological processes.
  3. Apply the revised QUINCY model to other fertilized ecosystems and/or to estimate impacts of nutrient level/imbalance on biosphere-atmosphere interactions.

Working group & planned collaboration

The candidate will be based in the Biosphere-Atmosphere Interactions and Experimentation group in the MPI-BGC Biogeochemical Integration department, and will have chance to closely work with collaborators in Spain, Italy, Austria, and Portugal.

Requirements for the PhD project are

Applications are open to highly motivated and independent students from any country who:
  • Hold a Master's degree in geography or environmental science (or related)
  • Are experienced in statistical analysis and modelling (using Fortran or C)
  • Have excellent oral and written English language skills
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.

Left: Ecosystem overview of the Majadas Experimental site.
Right: Concept of integrating remote sensing data and Earth system model.
Left: Ecosystem overview of the Majadas Experimental site. Right: Concept of integrating remote sensing data and Earth system model.

>> more information about the IMPRS-gBGC + application