PhD: Multifunctional assessment of forest ecosystems through model coupling

Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)

Leipzig, Germany 🇩🇪


The Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) with its 1,100 employees has gained an excellent reputation as an international competence centre for environmental sciences. We are part of the largest scientific organisation in Germany, the Helmholtz association. Our mission: Our research seeks to find a balance between social development and the long-term protection of our natural resources.

The job

The PhD Colleg LISA with 4 Phd positions will be launched in 2023. LISA is about exploring the multifunctionality of cultural landscapes in Germany and to examine the effects of climate change and land use in a model-based framework. This position (doctoral student #4) will study forest ecosystems under climate change. The aim is to couple a forest model
with a hydrological model for regions in Germany. One challenge is to address the different spatial and temporal scales the models are using to represent the landscape. The PhD position will investigate different strategies to handle these scale differences to find an efficient way of exchange water fluxes and vegetation dynamics between the forest and hydrological model. The doctoral thesis should address the following questions: how have droughts altered forest dynamics and what is the impact of different forest structures and species composition on soil moisture drought?

Your tasks

  • working and further developing the individual-based forest model (FORMIND, and couple it with the mesoscale Hydrological model (mHM,
  • resolve differences in space and time between the models: developing a regionalization concept of the coupled model system and implement an interface between them
  • large-scale simulation of forest dynamics considering soil water fluctuations
  • developing and implementing scenario simulations of climate change
  • evaluation of drought impact on multifunctional assessment of both ecosystem and water fluxes
  • collaboration among the four doctoral students within the PhD college (e.g., discussion groups, synthesis paper, joint conference attendance)

We offer

  • Excellent technical facilities which are without parallel
  • The freedom you need to bridge the difficult gap between basic research and close to being ready for application
  • Work in inter-disciplinary, multinational teams
  • Excellent links with national and international research networks
  • Excellent support and optimal subject-specific and general training with our HIGRADE graduate school
  • Remuneration in accordance with the TVöD public-sector pay grade 13 (65%)

Your profile

  • An excellent master’s degree in a relevant fields of research, including system sciences, mathematics, physics, geography
  • Expertise in modelling and analyzing complex systems (experience in agent-based modelling is beneficial)
  • Proficiency in computer programming (e.g. C++, Python)
  • Deep interest in investigating the impact of climate change on forests
  • Excellent knowledge of spoken and written English and ambition to publish in international journals
  • High motivation to work in an international and interdisciplinary team

Place of work


Working time

65% (25,35h/week)

Contract limitations

limited contract three years


Renumeration according to the TVöD public-sector up to pay grade 13 including attractive public-sector social security benefits.


Your contact for any questions you may have about the job:
Dr. Rico Fischer (
Dr. Stephan Thober (





IHE Delft MSc in Water and Sustainable Development