PhD in “Hydrologic predictions in Mediterranean and semi-arid climates”

San Diego State University

San Diego, CA, United States 🇺🇸

Applications are invited to study for a PhD in “Hydrologic predictions in Mediterranean and semi-arid climates”, to start Fall 2017 in the Department of Geography, San Diego State University, USA. The PhD will be supervised by Dr. Hilary McMillan, Associate Professor of Water Resources, who specializes in the use of hydrologic data for model design, forecasting and hydrologic process understanding (https://geography.sdsu.edu/people/hmcmillan).

The PhD is offered by the Department of Geography, San Diego State University, and is a Joint Doctoral Program with the University of California at Santa Barbara. Students will spend one year of the program in residence at UCSB. More details on the program are available here: https://geography.sdsu.edu/programs/doctoral. Financial support is provided through a Teaching Associate package, providing salary and full benefits, which requires the student to undertake specified teaching and research duties during semesters; more information is available here: https://geography.sdsu.edu/programs/doctoral/financial-support.

All applicants must apply through the Departmental and University application process (https://geography.sdsu.edu/programs/doctoral/apply), however applicants should first complete and submit this form by November 15, 2016. Shortlisted applicants will then be advised to follow the application process as above.

Hydrologic prediction models and tools often fail to make accurate predictions of river flows and other hydrologic variables in Mediterranean and semi-arid climates. Despite the severe need for accurate hydrologic information in water-scarce areas, comparison studies show that predictive performance decreases along the climatic gradient from wet catchments to dry catchments. Possible causes of poor performance in dry catchments include hydrologic model design; difficulty in representing and tracking water stores; lack of accurate data on soil/groundwater storage, rainfall and climate; and difficulty in streamflow measurements in ephemeral channels. This PhD will investigate the reasons for poor performance, and design innovative models and methods to improve hydrologic predictions in Mediterranean and semi-arid climates. Solutions may include redesign of typical hydrologic models (suited for wetter climates) by replacing traditional metrics of catchment wetness (e.g. volumetric soil moisture, water table level) with metrics more suited to dry catchments such as descriptions of surface conditions (permeability, microtopography, hydrophobicity), soil structure and channel blocking by vegetation. The PhD will use data from multiple catchments and model applications around the globe, and will offer the opportunity of fieldwork in Southern California to investigate controls on infiltration rates and flow pathways in a semi-arid region.


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