Tuesday, July 16, 2013

PhD student positions in the Department of Geography at McGill University and in the Département de géographie at the Université de Montréal

We are seeking two highly motivated PhD students to study aqueous and evasive carbon fluxes in the discontinuous permafrost zone of western Canada using various laboratory and field techniques. The positions are located in the Department of Geography at McGill University or Département de géographie at the Université de Montréal and are part of a Fonds québecois de la recherche sur la nature et les technologies (FQRNT)-funded project “Vers une meilleure comprehension du transport aqueux et évasif du carbone dans un paysage forêt-tourbière en zone de pergélisol discontinue en dégradation rapide” (2013-2016). The positions are open immediately. The project provides student stipends of $15,000 CAD/yr for four years. Additional sources of funding include university fellowships, research assistantships, and teaching assistantships at McGill University and the Université de Montréal, and FQRNT and Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council graduate student scholarships (deadlines are in October 2013).

The project builds on ongoing multidisciplinary work conducted within the Scotty Creek watershed near Fort Simpson, Northwest Territories (
http://g.co/maps/gxvnt). The watershed is located within the discontinuous permafrost zone and is dominated by raised peat plateaus (underlain by permafrost) and bogs (permafrost-free) that drain into a network of permafrost-free fens. The watershed-scale hydrological functioning of these peatlands is well characterized due to a decade-long period of extensive field measurements and surveys. The main findings have revealed an increase in active-layer thickness and continued permafrost degradation. However, no knowledge exists on the implications of these findings on peatlands’ ecophysiological and biogeochemical functioning. The goal of the project is to better define the aqueous and evasive transport of carbon at Scotty Creek under the influence of permafrost degradation.

The project is part of an NSERC-funded research program “Influence of changing active-layer thickness on PERmafrost PeatLand trace gas EXchanges and carbon balance (PERPLEX)” (2012-2016). The central component of PERPLEX is eddy covariance measurements of net methane, carbon dioxide, water vapour and energy exchanges between the permafrost landscape and the atmosphere. The two PhD students will complement these ecosystem-scale measurements by
1) quantifying land cover-specific (peat plateaus, bogs, and fens) temporal patterns (snowmelt, summer, autumn) in aqueous carbon (particulate, dissolved, gaseous) and total dissolved nitrogen concentrations and exports and by determining the rates of dissolved organic carbon production of differing organic materials such as litter and peat from plateaus, bogs and fens (ideally based McGill University).
2) measuring the temporal pattern (snowmelt, summer, autumn) of evasive methane and carbon dioxide emissions from different surface water bodies (lakes, collapse scars, collapse scars, fens, and hydrological connections between collapse bogs) to quantify their potential contributions to ecosystem-scale net carbon dioxide and methane exchanges as “seen” by the eddy covariance systems (ideally based at the Université de Montréal).

Ideal applicants for the PhD student positions have
1) a strong quantitative and technical background obtained through a Master’s or Diploma degree in geosciences, meteorology, environmental science, ecology, physics etc.
2) had previous exposure to some aspects of the project, such as hydrology/ecology/biogeochemistry, water chemistry.
3) some wilderness outdoor experience (remoteness of the site!) as the project requires frequent traveling to and extended stays at the site (seasonal field camp consists of basic tents and needs to be accessed by float plane or helicopter in the snow-free period).
4) the ability to work independently and effectively as part of a team setting consisting of researchers from various Canadian universities (Université de Montréal, McGill University, Wilfrid Laurier University, University of Guelph).
5) proficiency in English (the Université de Montréal is a francophone research university, so knowledge of French is of great advantage but not mandatory).

Please email questions regarding the PhD student positions/admission process and application packages consisting of cover letter, curriculum vitae (including a list of publications/presentations), an English writing sample (ideally a publication), copies of academic credentials, and names and contact information of at least two referees to:

Tim.moore *at* mcgill.ca and oliver.sonnentag *at* umontreal.ca

The review of applications will commence immediately until the PhD student positions are filled.

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