PhD position on peatland hydrology
University of Neuchatel, , Switzerland
Start reviewing process: 20 July 2022

[[JOB bodytext::PhD position – Carbon fluxes in agricultural peatlands: new insights from soil subsidence monitoring in the Seeland region (Switzerland)

Peatlands have seen their natural functions deteriorating as a consequence to multiple anthropogenic activities. Large peatland areas have been drained to increase the surface of arable land and develop agriculture. These activities caused multiple changes in the natural biogeochemical functions of peatlands, turning them into a major source of carbon. However, our understanding of the feedback mechanisms between land use, soil loss and carbon fluxes remains insufficient to develop sustainable water and soil management practices. This PhD project aims at addressing a central question: what is the role of land use and groundwater in controlling the dynamics of soil loss and carbon release? The research will be developed in the Seeland, a major agricultural production area in Switzerland, where intensive drainage and farming have induced major soil subsidence through the decomposition of organic material. The PhD project will be in the context of a large research project where hydrogeologists, biochemists and local stakeholders are jointly collaborating. The student will specifically be responsible for two main tasks within this project:

  1. compile and analyse data from in-situ and remote sensing systems to jointly explore the relevant hydrological and mechanical processes involved. Specifically, available ground motion data will be compiled to map soil subsidence and its temporal dynamics at the scale of the Seeland region. In addition, a specific experimental site hosting high frequency monitoring systems will be set up. The experimental part will gather critical data to describe the processes operating at finer spatial and temporal scales. It will include continuous monitoring of ground deformation, groundwater level, climatic variables and carbon fluxes (gas emanation and dissolved phase);
  2. the compiled data will be used to calibrate an existing numerical code where coupled hydrological, poroelasticity and associated carbon fluxes are described. Based on this model, the processes controlling carbon fluxes and soil loss under different climate and land use scenarios will be explored.

The PhD position is based at the Centre for Hydrogeology and Geothermics (CHYN) at the University of Neuchâtel under the supervision of Dr. C. Roques, Prof. P. Brunner and Prof. D. Hunkeler. The CHYN offers a stimulating research environment with about 50 collaborators. The candidate will benefit from a comprehensive pool of field and laboratory equipment, technical support staff and a dynamic PhD school.

Required qualifications
The successful candidate must have an MSc in Earth and Environmental Sciences or related fields and be strongly interested in research. Knowledge and experience in hydrology, data anlysis and numerical modelling are important. Programming skills (Python, matlab) are required. Fluency and excellent writing skills in English are needed.

Duration: 3 years with an option to extend 1 year.

Application and additional information
Applications should include a concise statement describing the motivation to work on this research project, copies of your academic qualifications and names of two referees. The application should be submitted as one single pdf file to Please use “[Application Seeland PhD] your name” in the subject of your email. Applications are currently under review and new applications will be considered until the position is filled.

Do not hesitate to contact us if you have any additional questions regarding the position. Please use the same email address with “[Question Seeland PhD] your name” in subject.]]

Of interest for:
  • Terrestrial Working Group