3 PhD positions in alpine sediment research in Switzerland
ETH Zurich, , Switzerland
Apply before: 23 December 2022

Join us in exploring how to improve predictions of sediment pathways and budgets in river basins. Sediment is critical for river, coastal and marine ecosystems, it generates natural hazards, debris flows and landslides, and forms floodplains with unique riparian functions for humans. However, much remains unknown about the details of where the sediment sources and sinks are in the landscape, the pathways that connect and activate them – especially insofar as quantitative predictions of sediment fluxes at the river basin scale are concerned.

We are an interdisciplinary collaborative team consisting of a hydrology-sediment modelling group (Molnar, ETH Zurich) and geology-geomorphology group (Schlunegger, University of Bern). We will develop a new physics-based hydrogeomorphological approach to analyze sediment pathways, combining distributed hydrology-sediment modelling and connectivity mapping with geological and geomorphological field observations, and sediment tracing in the Alpine Rhine (Switzerland) as a natural laboratory. We are looking for 3 PhD students on a 4-year research project funded by the SNF to join us in this challenge.

PhD 1: Sediment sources and connectivity analysis (ETH Zurich). This PhD student will be mapping potential sediment sources, researching structural and functional connectivity metrics, and exploring relations between sediment concentrations, and basin and climatic inputs by deep learning data-driven methods. GIS, large data analysis skills, and basic knowledge in geomorphology are required. Supervision by P. Molnar (ETH) and F. Schlunegger (UniBe).

PhD 2: Process-based hydrology-sediment modelling (ETH Zurich). This PhD student will be working with our coupled hydrology-sediment model (, making fine sediment load observations in small basins for model testing, adding new model components, and simulating source to sink pathways by tracing the sources with sediment fingerprints. Environmental engineering background, numerical methods knowledge, and excellent coding skills are required. Main supervision by P. Molnar (ETH).

PhD 3: Geological sediment tracing (Uni Bern). This PhD student will be collecting field data for the characterization of source signals for bedload (grain size, bulk petrography) and suspension loads (cosmogenic nuclides, bulk geochemistry and mineralogy), to develop sediment budgets, and to trace source signals through the channel network. Geological field experience, GIS, basic modelling and knowledge about rock types and geomorphology are required. Main supervision by F. Schlunegger (UniBe).

You are motivated to research the Earth System with a combination of field, data analysis, and numerical modelling methods. You have some fieldwork experience and must be willing to take part in field campaigns. This is a team research effort – it is expected that you are willing and able to work with others, be creative, communicate, think critically and share your skills. Excellent command of English is required, and basic German is an advantage.

Requirements for PhD1 and PhD2 (enrolled at ETH Zurich)

You have a Master of Sciences degree in environmental engineering or environmental (earth) sciences. You have skills in computational methods and numerical modelling (PhD 2) and geodata analysis (PhD 1) applied to Earth System problems, which you can demonstrate. You know how to use GIS and programming languages (e.g. Python, R, Matlab). For more information please contact Peter Molnar (

Apply: online at ETH Job Portal (; no Email applications)

Requirements for PhD3 (enrolled at the University of Bern)

You have a Master of Sciences degree in the field of geology or physical geography. You have skills in field sampling and laboratory sediment analysis. You know how to use GIS. For more information please contact Fritz Schlunegger (

Apply: by sending your application materials by Email to Prof. Schlunegger

Application Materials

  • Motivation letter and research interests (max 1 pg, ca 600 words)
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Academic transcripts from Bachelor and Master studies with grades
  • Contact information for 2-3 potential referees (no referee letters please)

We will evaluate applications as they come in. The positions will remain open until suitable candidates are found.

Deadline: 23 December 2022

Start of Project: 1 April 2023

Of interest for:
  • Terrestrial Working Group