PhD position - Paleoclimate reconstruction using biomarker lipids

Updated: about 2 months ago
Job Type: FullTime
Deadline: 01 Sep 2020

The Biogeoscience Group (Geological Institute, Department of Earth Sciences) at ETH Zurich is looking for a highly motivated PhD student with interest in paleoclimate and organic geochemistry to reconstruct changes in Central African paleoclimate over the past ~10 million years (Ma). Your research will be part of the funded ETH research project OKAPI (PI: Dr. Cindy De Jonge): “OKAvango catchment and Makgadikgadi paleolake: Paleoclimate Investigations using multiple lipid biomarker proxies”, which builds upon an international research program to study the Okavango-Makgadikgadi delta-paleolake system.

Project background

Climate change in continental South Africa. In southern Africa, climate conditions (i.e., precipitation, temperature) directly affect the presence of vegetation types, biodiversity, and the economic sustenance and well-being of past, present and future humans. Understanding past climate variability in continental southern Africa is not only important for developing future climate models, but also to understand the relationship between local environmental conditions and human evolution, and to decipher the environmental conditions that drove the development and expansion of C4 vegetation. We will apply a suite of novel and established lipid biomarker proxies to sediments to reconstruct the magnitude of temperature and hydrological changes in both the Makgadikgadi paleolake and the Okavango catchment (Botswana) over the last ~10 Ma.

Job description

Are you interested in applying lipid biomarker and statistical tools to shed light on this understudied time period in South Africa? During this PhD project you will learn to apply state-of-the-art analytical techniques and research concepts that cross scientific boundaries. You will also present at national and international conferences, write peer-reviewed publications and a PhD thesis. The research training addresses field, numerical, statistical and laboratory skills, equipping the student for a career across a range of professions. 

We offer a fully funded four-year PhD that will start in the autumn of 2020 (latest: 01/11/2020), under the mentorship of Dr. Cindy De Jonge (promotor: Prof. Timothy Eglinton).

Your profile

We are looking for a highly motivated researcher to perform this research, with a relevant MSc degree (i.e., earth sciences, environmental sciences). The candidate should be able to show experience in organic geochemistry or other lab-based analytical methods, and be interested in applying statistical approaches to generate climate records through time. As this research will be undertaken in collaboration with a worldwide network of African Miocene experts, you should have a keen interest in working in an international and interdisciplinary scientific environment. An outgoing phase to the UK (University of Southampton and Oxford University) of 4 months is included. Ideally, you should also demonstrate previous fieldwork experience, as field campaigns in Botswana are planned to recover sediment cores and modern samples (University of Botswana: ~2 months). Good oral and written communication skills in English are expected to be obtained during the position. Although all applications will be treated equally, we especially welcome applications from women, persons with physical and/or invisible disabilities, and racial and ethnic groups that are currently underrepresented in Earth Sciences.

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.


We look forward to receiving your online application with the following documents:

  • Curriculum vitae (max: 2 pages) that includes contact details of 2 references.
  • Motivation letter (max: 2 pages) for this specific position, indicating how you fill the requirements for this position.

Please note that we exclusively accept applications submitted through our online application portal before 1st September 2020. Shortlisted candidates will be contacted before 7th September 2020, followed by online interviews, and a potential visit to ETH.

For further information about the Biogeoscience Group please visit our website: . Questions regarding the position should be directed to Dr. Cindy De Jonge by email at (no applications).

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