2 PhD positions in Biogeoscience

100%, Zurich, temporary

Research and studies at the Department of Earth Sciences (D-ERDW) at ETH Zurich works towards a deeper understanding of all domains of our home planet, from the inner Earth to the continents, oceans, biosphere and atmosphere. It is a broad and dynamic department of ETH Zürich that is active within a large range of Earth Sciences related topics. Within the Department, the Biogeoscience group research programme focus is to investigate the role of organic matter production, remineralisation, transport and burial as a component of the global carbon cycle. 

Project background

The Biogeoscience Group (Geological Institute, Department of Earth Sciences) at ETH Zurich is looking for two highly motivated individuals to join our team in order to undertake doctoral research projects as part of a Swiss National Science Foundation-funded grant entitled Climate and Anthropogenic PerturbationS of Land-Ocean Carbon TracKs (CAPS-LOCK). The main goal of the CAPS-LOCK project is to understand the influence of climate and anthropogenic forcing on carbon storage and export in river basins. Fluvial export of carbon produced by the terrestrial biosphere and its subsequent burial in ocean sedimentary sinks forms a key component of the global carbon cycle, influencing atmospheric COand Oconcentrations over a range of timescales. Terrestrial organic matter (OM) sequestered in fluvially-derived sediment sequences also provides a crucial window into the past influence of natural (e.g., climate) and anthropogenic forcing on terrestrial ecosystems. We seek to bridge key gaps in our understanding of underlying processes involved in the mobilization of OM and associated mineral phases, with a particular focus on the timescales of transfer of OM and its links to intermediate storage processes and transport pathways. The PhD students will each focus on one of the following 2 sub-projects:

[1] The first sub-project involves use of a combination of quantitative geomorphological (including cosmogenic nuclides) and geochemical (from bulk to molecular 13C and 14C characterization) methods to develop a mechanistic understanding of the coupling between geomorphic soil processes (soil production and erosion rates) and its influence on characteristics of soil and exported OM.

[2] The second sub-project seeks to integrate the above processes at the scale of a large river drainage basin and assess whether riverine OM characteristics reflect landscape-wide soil processes.  Abundances and isotopic signatures of soil specific biomarkers will be compared with inorganic erosion tracers (cosmogenic nuclides and fallout radionuclides) in the same river sediments in order to assess spatial and temporal relationships between organic and inorganic signals and to link these signatures to geomorphic and topographic landscape characteristics.

Job description

Both projects will involve significant fieldwork (in Switzerland and Canada) as well as extensive laboratory and analytical work, including merging of innovative approaches that will allow assessment of dynamics of mineral and carbon mobilization in landscapes and along the terrestrial-aquatic continuum. In particular, the projects will make extensive use of state-of-the-art isotopic (esp. radiocarbon) and mineralogical approaches to advance understanding and develop quantitative constraints on underlying processes.

We offer two fully funded four-year projects that would preferably start in the fall of 2019 (latest: 01/12/2019). Evaluation of candidates will start in August 2019 and continue until the position is filled.

Your profile

Eligible candidates must have completed a Master’s degree in earth, environmental or geographic sciences or in analytical chemistry.

We seek candidates with a strong background in one or more of the following topics: organic geochemistry, geomorphology, cosmogenic nuclides, soil and/or fluvial systems. Strong quantitative and modelling skills will be considered as a plus. Demonstrable previous experience with both experimental and field work would also be ideal, together with strong oral and written communication skills in English given the international research environment of our group and of ETH.

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

  • Curriculum Vitae
  • A motivation letter mentioning the main reasons for applying, how your past experience would benefit the project and if you have a preference for one of the two positions.
  • Contact details of at least two references
  • Copy of master degree

Please apply exclusively via the online application portal. Applications sent by e-mail or post will not be considered.

Further information about the Department of Earth Sciences and the Biogeoscience group can be found on our websites www.erdw.ethz.ch and www.biogeoscience.ethz.ch.

For questions regarding the open positions, please contact either Prof. Timothy Eglinton (timothy.eglinton@erdw.ethz.ch) or Dr. Maarten Lupker (maarten.lupker@erdw.ethz.ch) by email (no applications).

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