Tree Mortality: From the Forest Stand to the Landscape

Two PhD Positions and one Postdoc Position (all 100%)

Company & Workplace Professorship of Forest Ecology, ETH Zurich, Switzerland

Description

The Forest Ecology Group at ETH Zurich seeks to appoint two PhD students and a Postdoctoral fellow to improve the modeling of tree mortality and the scaling of mortality processes from the individual to the landscape scale in the context of a project funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (« Advanced Tree Mortality Modeling and Upscaling in Space and Time »).

Tree mortality has received increasing attention in the past decade, and knowledge is accumulating at the level of physiological processes as well as at higher levels of integration. However, we are not yet in the position to provide tree mortality models that are robust and applicable at larger temporal (decades to centuries) and spatial (forest stands to landscapes) scales. Our project aims to fill this key gap that hampers our predictive ability of forest dynamics in a changing climate.

PhD project A will focus on developing robust models of tree mortality by combining empirical information from inventory and tree-ring data and also considering weather information, including extreme events. Field data collection will be an integral part of this project. A particular focus should be placed on the small tree size classes, which to date have been largely neglected in such models in spite of their key importance for stand dynamics.

PhD project B will focus on the implementation of empirically-based tree mortality models in a stand-scale dynamic vegetation model (ForClim), particularly considering the link between simulated growth and mortality, which is of pivotal importance to avoid artefacts in the simulation results. Methodologically, we envisage that Bayesian methods will be used among others for model calibration against a wide range of data sources.

The Postdoctoral Research Fellow will work on improving tree mortality modeling in a landscape-scale dynamic vegetation model (LandClim) that explicitly includes trees, understory vegetation, grassland dynamics as well as grazing. The focus of this work will be on individual tree mortality as well as large-scale disturbance agents, with a likely focus on wildfires that could become a major disturbance agent in a hotter and drier central Europe.

The Forest Ecology Group at ETH is a dynamic interdisciplinary research team that examines both theoretical and applied questions in forest ecology using a combination of empirical and modeling techniques. The overarching aim of the group is to further our understanding of the structure and function of forest ecosystems, with a particular focus on mountain areas such as the European Alps. We offer world-class facilities in a relaxing work atmosphere with lots of opportunities for collaboration both within and beyond our group.

Education

Required qualifications for the PhD positions include an MSc degree in forest sciences, environmental sciences, ecology, forestry, geography, biology, landscape ecology, or a related field. Candidates for position A should have good basic knowledge in statistics and the interest to delve further into these methods. Candidates for position B should have some experience, or at least a strong interest to learn dynamic modeling techniques and computer programming with object-oriented languages.

For the Postdoctoral Fellow, we expect a PhD in a similar field as for the PhD positions (above). Candidates should have in-depth experience with dynamic modeling techniques and computer programming, including familiarity with object-oriented languages (e.g., C#, C++).

For all three positions, experience using R or similar data/statistical languages and a good knowledge of European forest ecosystems would be an asset.

Starting date

1 April 2016; negotiable within limits.

Duration of appointment for all positions

Initial contract for one year; an extension by two years is foreseen.

Contact address

For more information on the Forest Ecology Group, check its website (http://www.fe.ethz.ch) or contact the group leader, Prof Harald Bugmann (e-mail: harald.bugmann[at]usys.ethz.ch).

To apply for one of these positions (in English or German), submit a letter explaining your interests and indicate clearly whether you apply for PhD position A or B, or the Postdoctoral Fellowship. Include your CV, diploma transcripts (BSc/MSc) from which the grades are evident, and the names and addresses (including e-mail) of three reference persons. Only electronic applications are accepted (http://www.eth-gethired.ch).

Screening of applications will start on 23 December 2015. Applications are accepted until the position is filled.

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