Doctoral student in remote sensing and Earth system modelling (PA2021/1414)

Updated: 14 days ago
Deadline: 30 May 2021

Lund University was founded in 1666 and is repeatedly ranked among the world’s top 100 universities. The University has around 44 000 students and more than 8 000 staff based in Lund, Helsingborg and Malmö. We are united in our efforts to understand, explain and improve our world and the human condition.

The Faculty of Science conducts research and education within Biology, Astronomy, Physics, Geosciences, Chemistry, Mathematics and Environmental Sciences. The Faculty is organized into nine departments, gathered in the northern campus area. The Faculty has approximately 1500 students, 330 PhD students and 700 employees.


Subject description

Continued anthropogenic warming and polar amplification have caused dramatic impacts on the environmental and biological conditions of northern ecosystems. Increased warming may alleviate temperature limitations on vegetation growth and stimulate vegetation productivity, which is termed “greening”. On the other hand, warming also exacerbates soil moisture droughts and causes many other natural disturbances (e.g., wildfire, insect outbreak) leading to adverse conditions for plant survival and growth, which is termed “browning”. Observed patterns in vegetation greening and browning in the tundra and boreal ecosystems are rather complex and can have fundamental consequences for climate feedbacks, wildlife and human communities. However, it remains unknown about drivers and feedbacks of greening and browning trends in northern ecosystems. In this project, we look for a PhD candidate to (i) investigate spatiotemporal characteristics in the trends and drivers of greening and browning in recent decades based on multiple satellite-derived products, (ii) quantify relationship between changes in biophysical properties of land surface and vegetation greening and browning, and (iii) predict future dynamics of northern ecosystems and their feedbacks to climate using the state-of-the-art dynamic global vegetation model (LPJ-GUESS) and Earth system model (EC-Earth).

The PhD candidate will work under the main supervision of Dr. Wenxin Zhang and alongside a team of researchers working on remote sensing and ecosystem modelling at Lund University. Research outcome of the project will contribute to the two Strategic Research Areas BECC (Biodiversity and Ecosystem services in a Changing Climate) and MERGE (Modelling the Regional and Global Earth system) at Lund University.

Work duties

The PhD candidate will carry out research within the SNSA (Swedish National Space Agency) funded research project “To resolve the complexity of the Arctic greening trends and quantify vegetation feedbacks using satellite observations, ground-based measurements and Earth system models”. The specific aims are: (1) to investigate ecosystem greening and browning trends and their climatic and environmental drivers; (2) to investigate carryover effects of seasonal driver anomalies on ecosystem productivity;(3) to quantify biophysical effects of vegetation responses to climate change based on satellite-derived products and a dynamic vegetation model; (4) to predict biogeophysical feedbacks to climate system using a global Earth system model. The project involves intensive remote sensing data. The project aspires to contribute to knowledge concerning ecosystem responses to climatic warming, their relationship to environmental drivers and impacts on vegetation feedbacks.

The main duties of the PhD candidate are to devote themselves to their research studies which includes participating in research projects and third cycle courses. The work duties can also include teaching and other departmental duties (no more than 20%).

Admission requirements

A person meets the general admission requirements for third-cycle courses and study programmes if he or she:

  • Has been awarded a second-cycle qualification, or
  • Has satisfied the requirements for courses comprising at least 240 credits of which at least 60 credits were awarded in the second cycle, or
  • Has acquired substantially equivalent knowledge in some other way in Sweden or abroad.

A person meets the specific admission requirements for third cycle studies in Physical Geography and Ecosystem science if he or she has:

  • Taken the courses relevant to physical geography, terrestrial ecosystem dynamics, environmental sciences, ecology or a similar topic
  • Proven experience in data analysis using one of the high-level programming languages (e.g., Matlab, Python or R) (an advantage)
  • Proven experience in using or learning a dynamic global vegetation model (an advantage)
  • Proven experience in processing satellite data, for instance, Landsat, MODIS, and Sentinel-2 (an advantage)

Additional requirements:

  • Very good oral and written proficiency in English
  • Experiences in using the Linux cluster server or cloud computing for a big data analysis is an advantage
  • Good communication skills and ability to work independently and in a group

Assessment criteria

Selection for third-cycle studies is based on the student’s potential to profit from such studies. The assessment of potential is made primarily on the basis of academic results from the first and second cycle. Special attention is paid to the following:

  • Knowledge and skills relevant to the thesis project and the subject of study
  • An assessment of ability to understand scientific questions critically and to formulate and tackle research problems independently
  • Written and oral communication skills
  • Other experience relevant to the third-cycle studies, e.g. presentation in the international conference, participation in peer-reviewed publications
  • Consideration will also be given to good collaborative skills, drive and independence, and how the applicant, through his or her experience and skills, is deemed to have the abilities necessary for successfully completing the third cycle programme.

    The employment of doctoral students is regulated in the Swedish Code of Statues 1998: 80. Only those who are or have been admitted to PhD-studies may be appointed to doctoral studentships. When an appointment to a doctoral studentship is made, the ability of the student to benefit from PhD-studies shall primarily be taken into account. In addition to devoting themselves to their studies, those appointed to doctoral studentships may be required to work with educational tasks, research and administration, in accordance with specific regulations in the ordinance.

    Terms of employment

    Limit of tenure, four years according to HF 5 kap 7§.

    Only those admitted to third cycle studies may be appointed to a doctoral studentship. Third cycle studies at LTH consist of full-time studies for 4 years. A doctoral studentship is a fixed-term employment of a maximum of 5 years (including 20% departmental duties). Doctoral studentships are regulated in the Higher Education Ordinance (1993:100), chapter 5, 1-7 §§.

    Instructions on how to apply

    Applications shall be written in English and include a cover letter stating the reasons why you are interested in the position and in what way the research project corresponds to your interests and educational background. The application must also contain a CV, degree certificate or equivalent (e.g., a thesis copy), and other documents you wish to be considered (grade transcripts, contact information for your references, letters of recommendation, etc.).


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