Postdoc position in Modelling of forest development and wood production

70%-100%, Zurich, fixed-term

ETH Zurich, Empa, WSL, and EPF Lausanne are launching an interdisciplinary research project to provide the scientific basis to leverage the transition to a construction bioeconomy across the wood supply chain in Switzerland, set within European and global contexts. Drawing on the expertise of the four ETH Domain institutions, the research will encompass forest dynamics and production under climate change, scenarios of material use and flows, new construction materials, development of new design and AI approaches to maximise resource use efficiencies, life cycle assessment evaluating impacts on carbon emissions and biodiversity, and costing models. The project aims to identify key leverage points in the value chain to scale wood construction and to deliver environmentally optimal Swiss wood use scenarios. We will apply environmental, economic, technical, societal, and political research across the wood value chain to construct the interdependent systems understanding that is required for transformative change across the wood construction supply chain. The diverse array of expertise across the four research institutions will be further informed by the private sector and NGO partners, enabling us to collectively explore options for contributing to net-zero carbon by transitioning to mass timber construction.

This position is based at ETH Zurich but includes intense collaborations with scientists at WSL and other institutions involved in the project as well as at the international level. The position is initially for two years, and an extension by a third year is foreseen. The desired starting date is 1 January 2023, with some flexibility.

Project background

In one of the Work Packages of this project, forest development and wood production in Switzerland will be modelled under anticipated future climate and for a variety of forest management scenarios. We will additionally assess a variety of ecosystem services under these scenarios. This will be a collaboration between the professorships of Forest Resources Management and Forest Ecology at ETH, and the Research Unit of Forest Resources and Management at WSL. The projections of forest dynamics and wood production will provide the basis for elaborating alternative forest management scenarios together with stakeholders, including a focus on increased harvesting, climate-adapted management, and segregated management approaches (e.g., plantations) to meet expected future demands.

Job description

You will work with selected case study regions representing the Swiss Plateau, the pre-Alps and Jura and the Alps, effectively covering most of the important productive regions and their differences. This will also facilitate collaboration with local stakeholders. To assess tree species’ climate suitability and growth dynamics, you will employ dynamic, process-based models such as ForClim (developed at ETH) and 3-PG (applied at WSL). The resulting trajectories will benchmark the projections of the empirical growth model MASSIMO (developed at WSL based on National Forest Inventory data). A spatially explicit forest planning model(FPS.Europe, developed at ETH) will provide linkages with other parts of the project and form the basis for interaction with stakeholders in the case study regions.

Starting from a “Business-As-Usual” scenario (Swiss close-to-nature and multi-purpose forestry) you will elaborate alternative management scenarios together with stakeholders, including a focus on increased harvesting, climate-adapted management, and segregated management approaches to meet expected future demand. The scenarios will showcase partial segregation of the provisioning of ecosystem goods and services, (e.g., intensively managed systems for enhancing timber production, short-rotation systems, plantation systems and managing for C storage). For all scenarios, you will assess C sequestration and storage potential, as well as the simulated effects on other ecosystem goods and services such as biodiversityprotection from natural hazardswater provision, or recreational services. You will evaluate the trade-offs associated with different forest cover, forest management, and wood production strategies, and evaluate exposure to risks such as fire and pest outbreaks in the productive forest area. The spatially explicit nature of our outputs allows for upscaling to the national scale, thus providing information for policy guidance on an adapted Swiss forest strategy. You will publish your results in international scientific journals.

Your profile

We are looking for someone with the following skills and experience: 

  • PhD degree in forest sciences, forestry, environmental sciences, landscape ecology, geography, ecology or a related field, with good knowledge of forestry
  • Experience in the development, evaluation, and/or application of models of forest dynamics
  • Strong teamwork and communication skills and willingness to work in a highly interdisciplinary team
  • Willingness to contribute to inter- and transdisciplinary research
  • Good knowledge of statistics (preferably including R), and good command of English (oral and written)
  • Motivated to work with models, data, numbers, code, and computers.

The following characteristics are an assets:

  • Familiarity with European forest ecosystems
  • Knowledge of German.

Your workplace

Your workplace




We offer

ETH Zurich is a family-friendly employer with excellent working conditions. You can look forward to an exciting working environment, cultural diversity and attractive offers and benefits.

Working, teaching and research at ETH Zurich

We value diversity

In line with our values, ETH Zurich encourages an inclusive culture. We promote equality of opportunity, value diversity and nurture a working and learning environment in which the rights and dignity of all our staff and students are respected. Visit our Equal Opportunities and Diversity website to find out how we ensure a fair and open environment that allows everyone to grow and flourish.

Curious? So are we.

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

  • Curriculum vitae
  • A letter (1-2 pages) explaining your interests and motivation to apply for this position
  • Copies of BSc/MSc/PhD transcripts from which the grades are evident
  • Names and contact details of three reference persons.

Please note that we exclusively accept applications submitted through our online application portal (see button below). Applications via email or postal services will not be considered. Screening of applications will start on 15 November 2022. Applications are accepted until the position is filled.

For further information on this position, please contact Prof. Harald Bugmann, by e-mail at harald.bugmann@env.ethz.ch (please do not send application documents).

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.

Curious? So are we.

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

  • Curriculum vitae
  • A letter (1-2 pages) explaining your interests and motivation to apply for this position
  • Copies of BSc/MSc/PhD transcripts from which the grades are evident
  • Names and contact details of three reference persons.

Please note that we exclusively accept applications submitted through our online application portal (see button below). Applications via email or postal services will not be considered. Screening of applications will start on 15 November 2022. Applications are accepted until the position is filled.

For further information on this position, please contact Prof. Harald Bugmann, by e-mail at harald.bugmann@env.ethz.ch (please do not send application documents).

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.