Graduate Assistant via AGU

East Lansing, MI, United States 🇺🇸

Graduate assistantships are available at Michigan State University for a pair of new multidisciplinary NASA projects addressing the intertwined environmental and social effects of climate change and dam construction in the Lower Mekong River Basin (i.e. Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam).

Southeast Asia is a dynamic and rapidly changing region, where rapid urbanization and technological and economic development are increasingly shaping rural landscapes, resources, and agrarian communities. In recent years, numerous dams have been (and are being) constructed along the Mekong River and its tributaries in order to meet the region’s growing appetite for energy, irrigation for agricultural intensification, and protection from extreme weather events. This project aims to better understand the downstream social and environmental effects of dam construction in order to identify sustainable scenarios that address broader regional needs while preserving important ecosystem services and local livelihoods.

The projects involve work in the following areas:

  • Remote Sensing – Employ optical and microwave remote sensing imagery to: define lake and wetland dynamics, including the inundation of wetlands and irrigated lands; characterize land use dynamics; assess wetland phenology; and map the physical characteristics of hydroelectric impoundments
  • Climatology – Reconstruct historical trends, patterns, and variability in climate
  • Hydrology – Model hydrologic processes and water resources and evaluate the effects of human activities on  hydrologic budgets
  • Biogeochemistry – Develop biogeochemical models to evaluate greenhouse gas emissions from wetlands under a range of management scenarios
  • Ecosystem Services – Evaluate tradeoffs in ecosystem services under a range of scenarios
  • Participatory Evaluation of Scenarios – Engage local stakeholders including community members in participatory scenario evaluation and engage with local institutional partners to assess governance options

Successful applicants should have an interest in working in interdisciplinary teams, strong analytical abilities, and excellent writing skills. Some familiarity with the region including local languages (Thai and Khmer) is preferred – although not required – for the Ecosystem Services and Participatory Evaluation positions.

The activities are based at the Center for Global Change and Earth Observations (, in conjunction with MSU’s Hydrogeology Lab and the Department of Fisheries & Wildlife, along with colleagues at Virginia Tech and Applied Geosolutions, as well as University partners in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.

Expressions of interest in the Remote Sensing or Biogeochemical modeling work should be sent to Jiaguo Qi ([email protected]); Hydrology or Climatology inquiries should be directed to David Hyndman ([email protected]); and those regarding Ecosystem Service Tradeoffs and Participatory Scenario Evaluation should contact Daniel Kramer ([email protected]). Please include William McConnell ([email protected]) on all correspondence.