PhD position: New physical indicators for soil health

Updated: 3 months ago
Job Type: PartTime
Deadline: 21 Nov 2022

PhD position: New physical indicators for soil health

The ETH research group PoSE (Physics of Soils and Terrestrial Ecosystems; chair: Prof. Andrea Carminati) studies the physics of soil water and the fundamental implications for plant water relations and life in soils. We quantify processes in soils and across the soil–vegetation–atmosphere system at various scales using imaging, various experimental methods, and numerical tools.


Project background

Natural soil sustains biomass production and serves as a habitat for living creatures, forming a huge carbon pool. Various indicators must be defined to monitor and quantify soil health to maintain the various soil functions in a changing climate and with increasing population pressure. To quantify physical aspects of soil health, properties that can be deduced destructively from small samples (texture, porosity, soil hydraulic properties) are often used but they cannot capture soil structures and their impact on various soil functions. Accordingly, we look for new physical indicators for soil health that (i) quantify structural quantities, (ii) include their impact on soil functions, and (iii) link them to environmental covariates that can be deduced from remote sensing products.


Job description

You will explore the relationship between soil structural quantities and information that can easily be deduced from lab measurements or mathematical rules denoted as pedotransfer functions. This relationship will then be applied to predict soil physical properties (characteristic length of evaporation, drainage and ponding times) that integrate material properties at the scale relevant to soil functions. As the last step, the new soil physical indicators will be calculated at a continental and global scale.


Your profile

You should possess a Master's degree from an accredited university or an equivalent ( e.g. German "Diplom", French “DEA”) in the areas of environmental sciences, engineering, or statistics. You should be independent, inquisitive and capable of formulating new research questions, developing research strategies, presenting research at conferences and publishing research results in international scientific journals.

Strong communication skills, experience in handling large data and machine learning experience would be an advantage. The candidate is expected to assist with teaching and other activities of the group.


We offer
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Curious? So are we.

We look forward to receiving your online application including the following documents, each uploaded as a separate pdf.

  • Your CV (max. 2 pages), including information on your educational background and any relevant research/work/volunteering activities
  • A copy of your MSc degree (including thesis title) and a list of courses taken and grades (a transcript)
  • A motivation letter
  • Names and contact details of 2 references

Applications will be reviewed starting September 30, with the goal of conducting interviews in mid-October and making a decision by early November. The ideal start date would be January 2023.

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 about PoSE can be found on our website . For further information regarding the position, please contact Dr Peter Lehmann, at peter.lehmann@env.ethz.ch (do not add application documents in case of email contact).


About ETH Zürich

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.


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