October 2018
Message 24

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[Met-jobs] PhD position in vegetation modelling

From Philipp Porada <>
Date Fri, 5 Oct 2018 20:49:09 +0200

we offer 1 PhD position on

'Effects of early vegetation on global climate in Earth’s history'

Before the rise of vascular plants, such as trees and grasses, early forms of vegetation dominated the land surface. These organisms were comparable to today’s terrestrial algae and cyanobacteria, and they likely occurred already 2 billion years ago. Much later, they were followed by predecessors of today’s lichens and mosses (non-vascular vegetation), and only around 400 million years ago, the earliest vascular plants evolved.

Although these organisms represented the global vegetation for most of Earth’s history, it is still highly uncertain to what extent they affected their environment. It has been suggested, for instance, that they caused intervals of glaciations through reducing the atmospheric CO2 content. Furthermore, they may have been the main factor for an increase in atmospheric oxygen to today’s level.

The goal of the PhD project will be to quantify the impacts of early vegetation on the Earth system, focusing on climatic effects and atmospheric composition. To this end, the candidate will work with an already existing numerical simulation model of non-vascular vegetation and adapt it to better represent early vegetation in the geological past.

The project will consist of three main tasks:

1. Include new forms of early terrestrial vegetation. The candidate will extend the model by new vegetation forms, such as microbial mats or lycophytes. These will serve as current analogues to the vegetation of the deep geological past.

2. Quantify vegetation effects for today. The new model version will be applied to predict the global distribution, productivity and biogeochemical effects of the newly included vegetation forms. The outcomes will be compared to existing data from field and laboratory experiments.

3. Estimate effects of early vegetation on climate of the past. Using paleoclimate data, the model will be used to predict vegetation effects in the geological past, such as longterm storage of organic carbon, or impacts on silicate weathering rates, which control atmospheric CO2 and oxygen. This will be carried out in collaboration with project partners.

The candidate should fulfill the following requirements:

* A very good M.Sc. degree (or equivalent) in (Bio)Geosciences, (Geo)Ecology, Biology, Physics, Mathematics, Chemistry, or related natural sciences. Candidates who have not yet completed their Master thesis can submit a study record to show their qualification.

* Very good written and spoken English skills

* Interest in numerical computer simulation of biological and geochemical processes

* Experience with Unix/Linux is an asset

The place of employment will be the University of Potsdam (Germany) and the position will be hosted by the working group of plant ecology and nature conservation (Prof. Florian Jeltsch) and also the department of Geosciences. Potsdam is a small city with rich cultural heritage and beautiful parks, located close to Berlin.

The PhD position will have a flexible starting date and a duration of three years, at 26 hours per week (payment level E13, TV-L BAT-O 65 %). The remainder of the working time can be used for scientific qualification.

Applications should include a cover letter explaining the motivation to carry out the PhD project, a CV and the M.Sc. certificate or other informative records. Please send the documents as one pdf file by December 1st to

Dr. Philipp Porada
Plant Ecology and Nature Conservation
University of Potsdam

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