PhD position in Boreal Forest Ecology-patterns and drivers of carbon allocation and cycling in boreal forests

Updated: 20 days ago
Deadline: 31 May 2021

The Department of Ecology and Environmental Science (Umeå University, Sweden) invites applicants for a PhD position in forest ecosystem ecology. The expected starting date for the PhD position is fall, 2021 or according to agreement. Application deadline is May 31, 2021.

Project description
Boreal forests play a critical role in the global climate as stores of around a third of global terrestrial carbon. As climate change is particularly rapid across higher latitudes, the effects of climate change on this stored carbon has understandably become a topic of intense societal interest. Despite this, boreal forests have been largely ignored in global policy efforts to mitigate climate change and promote sustainable land management.

The available summaries of carbon cycling in boreal systems give the impression that the biome is well understood when in fact far less information is available from boreal forests than the tropics where research is typically more resource limited. This means that our overall picture of how and where boreal forests store carbon, which is so crucial for national and international climate policy, is still limited by the lack of replicated, independent and inter-comparable field measurements. Of particular interest is how forest carbon allocation changes under different forest management strategies, with forest age, along key environmental gradients (rainfall, temperature), over time (seasonally and inter-annually) and after various disturbances (e.g: fire, storms, herbivory).

This limited information from boreal forests is a major obstacle to understanding and predicting global climate change, and holds back meaningful progress in resolving ongoing debates about forestry and climate across northern ecosystems.

The PhD project will take approaches to monitoring forest carbon allocation developed in tropical forests and apply them to the challenge of boreal forests by establishing a network of plots spanning Scandinavian forests, measuring all key carbon fluxes in a repeatable and standardized way over multiple years. Specifically, the network will address the following questions:

  • How does carbon uptake and allocation vary across different Scandinavian boreal forests?
  • What ecological and climatic factors regulate boreal forest carbon allocation and storage?
  • How and why does boreal forest carbon allocation change seasonally and year to year?

By employing the network across different natural environment gradients and larger-scale carbon measurement methods, integrating satellite imagery and finally incorporating the data into a modelling framework the project will a provide a powerful new comprehensive and detailed picture of boreal forest functioning to inform scientists, policymakers and land owners.

The employment is expected to result in a doctoral degree and the main assignment for the student is thus to be part of the research education, which includes participation in research but also taking relevant courses. Teaching and other departmental activities (up to a maximum of 20% time) are typically included as well. Employment is limited to the equivalent of four years at full time or up to five years if teaching and other departmental work is performed. The salary is fixed according to the established salary level for doctoral students.

Admission requirements
The recruitment procedure for the position is in accordance with the Higher Education Ordinance. Prerequisites include 240 ECTS credits (Swe. högskolepoäng) of higher education studies of which 60 should be on an advanced level (Master level), or equivalent competence.

To fulfil the specific entry requirements for doctoral studies in Ecology the applicant should have approved courses in subject relevant for Ecology of at least 120 ECTS credits (2 years). This should include at least one course on advanced level in Ecology or a similar relevant field as well as a 15 ECTS credits independent project in Ecology or a similar relevant field. The requirements should be met at the time of acceptance to doctoral studies.

For this position, we are looking for a person interested in forests, ecosystem ecology and/or biogeochemistry. We expect the candidate to have an academic background in environmental sciences, ecology, soil science or physical geography. In addition, the following are essential: (i) Willingness to travel extensively and spend long periods of time doing fieldwork; (ii) Driving license or ability to get one before May 2022.

Strong merits include:

  • Experience of field work in remote sites
  • Experience of field work with forest inventory and/or forest carbon cycling
  • Experience of ecophysiological measurements using gas analyzers
  • Experience of remote sensing & geographical information systems
  • Experience of quantitative analysis, particularly ecological modeling and statistics
  • Experience of scientific publication, especially in English
  • Documented experience of basic medical emergency training

The application, in Word or PDF, must be written in English and should include:

  • A short (max 2 pages) description of why you are interested in the position
  • CV
  • Copies of certificates from higher education
  • List of completed university courses and the grades
  • Copy of publications/degree thesis

If you have questions regarding the position, please contact Professor Daniel Metcalfe:

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