PhD position in “Sustainable peatland management by mapping, monitoring and modelling the Carbon...

Updated: 2 months ago
Job Type: FullTime
Deadline: 16 Aug 2021

ETH Zurich and the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission are inviting applications for PhD positions through the Collaborative Doctoral Partnership (CDP) scheme. The CDP scheme intends to enhance the science-policy link through strategic collaborations with higher education institutions characterized by research excellence and international reputation, in order to:

  • Train a new generation of doctoral graduates in science and technology with a focus on the science-policy interface, able to understand the research needs at different stages of the policy cycle, capable of providing scientific support to policy and of using transferable skills in science communication and knowledge management.
  • Co-develop, co-host and co-supervise doctoral studies between higher education institutions and the JRC.

Strengthen collaboration between the JRC and higher education institutions by promoting mutual enhancement of related skills and competences, combining existing knowledge and capacities, and enhancing networking in key scientific areas.

Job description

Within the CDP framework we are looking for a PhD candidate to improve the mapping of organic soils in EU, model Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from peatlands and assess policy scenarios for sustainable peatlands management. Peatlands are highly valuable carbon reservoir and sink but also a major source of emissions when degraded. While accounting for only about 3-5% of the EU land area, they store around 30% of terrestrial carbon, but their spatial distribution and C emissions remain very uncertain. The objective of this PhD will be to improve assessments of spatial distribution of peatlands in the EU and current GHG emissions from peatlands, and assess scenarios for best management. In the first phase, the PhD candidate will elaborate and implement a mapping methodology for peatlands using existing information on organic soils for 1100-1400 points within LUCAS topsoil survey, CORINE Land Cover maps, data from EU Member States, Global Peatlands initiative and bilateral contributions from other EU Research Institutes. In a second phase, the PhD candidate will developed a semi-empirical model to predict CO2 and methane emissions by water table, soil properties, remote sensing vegetation indexes and taking advantage of new data and literature recently published on this issue. This semi-empirical model will compare its outputs with the emissions/removals from LULUCF inventories of Member States. Finally, the PhD candidate will model management scenarios taking into account the objectives of the Green Deal and the Good Agricultural Environmental Condition (GAEC) in the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). In addition, this part of the PhD will look for the best management (e.g. rewetting) to minimize the emissions of CO2 and CH4.  As an option, the PhD candidate may further develop a process-based model to assess more mechanistically effect of climate change impacts in peatlands in interactions with soil biodiversity and nutrient fluxes. The overall PhD project is relevant to EU policies such as the CAP, LULUCF, Biodiversity Strategy 2030, carbon farming and Soil Thematic Strategy.


  • We offer a four-year PhD position in collaboration with the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission.
  • The PhD research will be realized at the Joint Research Centre (JRC) in Ispra, Italy, for a period of up to 24 months.
  • We offer a competitive fellowship. While at the JRC in Ispra, you will get a contract as a Grant Holder 20.

Your profile
  • You have (or are near completion of) a Master in Earth Sciences, Bioscience Engineering, Soil Science, Agricultural Sciences, Environmental Sciences, Geography (or a related field). 
  • You have a strong interest in soil (biogeochemical processes) research and process-based or statistical modelling, and a demonstrable experience in these topics.
  • Experience with the spatial analysis of large-scale datasets and remote sensing is a major asset.
  • Experience in machine learning and/or digital soil mapping is also an asset.
  • Experience in soil organic carbon processes and assessments an advantage
  • You have excellent knowledge of GIS and experience with R, Matlab or Python scripting.
  • You work proactively and independently and have good communication skills.
  • You have a very good knowledge of English, both spoken and written.
  • Relevant publications in peer review journals should be highlighted.
  • You are highly motivated, ambitious and result-oriented.

ETH Zurich

ETH Zurich is one of the world’s leading universities specialising in science and technology. We are renowned for our excellent education, cutting-edge fundamental research and direct transfer of new knowledge into society. Over 30,000 people from more than 120 countries find our university to be a place that promotes independent thinking and an environment that inspires excellence. Located in the heart of Europe, yet forging connections all over the world, we work together to develop solutions for the global challenges of today and tomorrow.


The selection process is based on the CV, tests and interviews. It is composed of two phases, that is, a first selection is made by ETH Zurich resulting in a short list of candidates and then a second selection is made by JRC. Candidates should at the start of the employment contract with JRC:

  • Have the nationality of a Member State of the EU or a country associated to the Research Framework Programs (Horizon2020).
  • Candidates from other countries may also apply providing they have a residence and work permit in Italy. They will have to go through the security clearance before they can be granted the GH contract.
  • After the selection process, enrol in the PhD programme Science and Policy at ETH Zurich hosted by the Zurich-Basel Plant Science Center .

We look forward to receiving you online applicatoion until August 16, 2021. Please note that we exclusively accept applications submitted through our online application portal. Applications via email or postal services will not be considered.

Further information can be found on our website . For informal enquiries contact Prof. Jaboury Ghazoul by email: (no applications).

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