2 PhDs, vegetation modeling - Potsdam, Germany

The Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) in Potsdam, Germany, seeks two PhD students who are enthusiastic about timely scientific questions about land surface processes in the Arctic and consequences on ecosystem services, especially on vegetation dynamics, starting as soon as possible.


The focus is on vegetation dynamics and involved processes on long timescales. Therefore, the main tasks lie in the interface of model development and data analyses.

The position is limited to three years and starts as soon as possible. The salary will be paid in accordance with the German Tarifvertrag des öffentlichen Dienstes (TVöD Bund), up to salary level 13 (66%). The place of employment will be Potsdam.


Climate changes lead to vegetation composition changes at a location. Unfortunately, the involved processes and their interactions such as adaptation of species to the new environment or distribution acting across temporal and spatial scales, are complex and thus their impact widely not understood. To foster our understanding of vegetation changes responding to climate changes, we will make use of data from field work and model the important processes.

One project focuses on the boreal forest tree species in Siberia. For this, the individual-based forest model LAVESI will be developed by including dynamic adaptation of traits to the environment and their genetic information of simulated tree species. Following a validation of the model, the importance of the newly implemented processes for historical treeline dynamic shall be evaluated. With the enhanced model we aim to improve our understanding about responses of boreal forests under climate warming in the next decades.

The other project focuses on plant species diversity on the Tibetan Plateau. It involves the construction of a model to simulate plant diversity by taking drivers into account, e.g. climate, natural disturbances and land use and their interplay. By application of the newly developed model, the major drivers of plant diversity losses can be identified. Furthermore, projections will provide insights to assess future development of plant diversity under different scenarios.


- Processing and analyzing available data sets in both projects.
- Specific in each of the two projects:

Interpretation of results of the data analyses to implement dynamically adapting traits of tree individuals into the individual-based forest model LAVESI (in programming language C++), or;
Development of a new numerical model to predict plant species diversity, based on the gained results, and further literature-based information.

- Parameterization of the models and analyzing the impact of potential processes by running sensitivity studies.
- Forcing simulations with the models using climate scenarios for the 21st century to predict the vegetation dynamics.
- A doctoral degree with suitable publication activity as well as the presentation of the achieved results at international conferences are supported and expected.


- The candidate must hold a master’s degree or equivalent degree in bio- or geosciences (Biology, Geoecology, (Geo)Physics or related disciplines).
- Good knowledge of data processing and programming (C ++, R or similar languages).
- Advanced English skills (written and spoken) are a prerequisite.
- In general, good skills in communication and writing are expected and a high capacity for teamwork.
- The offered positions offers a chance to work together in a team addressing current scientific questions about vegetation dynamics. We support and expect the completion of the dissertation including relevant publication and presentation of gained results at international conferences.

Beneficial experience

- Experiences in molecular biology and (geo)statistics.
- Previous knowledge in field work and permafrost land surface dynamics and permafrost.


Application deadline is 20 March 2019.

Only online applications accepted: https://recruitingapp-5442.de.umantis.com/Vacancies/327/Application/CheckLogin/1

Further information

Read the full position description here: https://www.awi.de/en/work-study/jobs/job-offer.html

Questions can be sent to Stefan Kruse, Polar Terrestrial Environmental Systems Research Group at the Alfred-Wegener-Institut Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung, Forschungsstelle Potsdam: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


The Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) is a member of the Helmholtz Association (HGF) and funded by federal state government.  AWI focuses on polar and marine research in a variety of disciplines such as biology, oceanography, geology, geochemistry and geophysics thus allowing multidisciplinary approaches to scientific goals.

As PhD student at AWI you will be a member of the Helmholtz Graduate School for Polar and Marine Research ‘POLMAR’ (http://polmar.awi.de) or another graduate school.