PhD position: Basin scale water quality dynamics driven by natural and anthropogenic forcings in contrasting global settings

Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)
Position Type: 
Organization Type: 
University/Academia/Research/Think tank
Experience Level: 
Not Specified
Degree Required: 
Advanced Degree (Master's or JD)


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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 UFZ, TU Dresden, Purdue University and University of Florida with German Environmental Agency (UBA), the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) and the European Environment Agency (EEA) as cooperating partners started the Helmholtz International Research School „Trajectories towards Water Security (TRACER)” to develop a new comprehensive understanding of spatiotemporal trajectories of human impacts on natural water systems and feedbacks between human and ecological systems. We believe that this understanding must be globally transferable at multiple scales and across wide ranges of geographic, hydro-climatic, and socio-economic settings.

With TRACER, we will develop methods to (1) hindcast multi‐decadal hydro‐ecological trajectories of human impacts on water and vice versa, (2) disentangle human pressures and natural variability, (3) reliably forecast future pathways under climate- and land-use- change scenarios to achieve water security, and (4) analyze impacts of policies and regulations to enhance water security, modify social behavior and support ecological recovery.

TRACER offers 4 PhD positions in 5 thematic subjects.

PhD position (m/f/x)

Subject: 1: Basin scale water quality dynamics driven by natural and anthropogenic forcings in contrasting global settings

Project start: 1st February 2020, working time 65% (25,35 hours per week); limited for three years

The place of work will be based at UFZ or one of the partner institutions, depending on the supervisor team. Regular exchange with the partners is assumed. More information on TRACER can be found under
Interviews are expected to take place 1st or 2nd week of December. Tele media options will be available in exceptional cases.

Your tasks:

  • Analyzing long-term water quality developments (trajectories) in surface and groundwater bodies on the global scale in contrasting natural environments and socio-economic settings
  • Adjusting data- driven/mechanistic modeling methods to identify trends, turning and tipping points in those trajectories
  • Linking water quality developments to socio-economic proxies such as land-use intensification, population growth and distribution, and consumption patterns
  • Linking the trajectories approach with water management regulations

Your profile:

  • You should have a Master degree in geoscience or environmental science with basic knowledge in hydrology, biogeochemistry and aquatic ecology and a strong interest to find the underlying drivers and processes in water quality and quantity data
  • It would be highly beneficial if you already have experience with database management, data-driven time series analyses and scripting and programming languages such as R, Matlab or Python.
  • Experience working with GIS software and a driver’s license would be additional assets
  • Moreover are very good written and spoken English and communication skills mandatory. 
  • You should also be willing to work in transdisciplinary projects, intercultural teams and are flexible to travel as there is the possibility for stays abroad of up to 6 months. You should be ready to adopt the TRACER curriculum and to actively engage in TRACER activities.In general you should be curious, highly motivated and have an entrepreneurial attitude. 
  • German communication skills would be beneficial.
  • Applications should include two recommendation letters with references

We offer:

  • Top level interdisciplinary research at a research centre which enjoys an excellent reputation within Germany as well as internationally
  • Excellent technical facilities
  • Work in inter-disciplinary and multinational teams
  • Excellent links to national and international research networks
  • Support and optimal training courses by our graduate school (HIGRADE)
  • Remuneration in accordance with the TVöD public-sector pay grade 13 (65%)  including attractive public-sector social security benefits