Job advertisement Open PhD project: Effects of changes in plant phenology on the climate system

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European Geosciences Union

Open PhD project: Effects of changes in plant phenology on the climate system

Open PhD project: Effects of changes in plant phenology on the climate system

Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Jena logo

Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Jena

The Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry is dedicated to the study of global cycles of essential elements on Earth, their interactions among the biosphere, atmosphere, geosphere and the oceans, and their interrelation with the physical climate system.

The institute was founded in 1997 by the Max Planck Society as the third Max Planck Institute in Jena. In 2003, the institute moved into its new building on the Beutenberg Campus. The Science Campus is home to several academic and for-profit research institutions and offers together with the Friedrich-Schiller University Jena excellent potential for local scientific collaborations.

Biogeochemical research is highly interdisciplinary and international. Scientists from all over the world are attracted to our institute and our research is often conducted in remote and exotic locations worldwide.


Jena, Germany


Relevant divisions
Biogeosciences (BG)
Climate: Past, Present & Future (CL)
Geosciences Instrumentation and Data Systems (GI)


Student / Graduate / Internship

PhD researchers receive either a scholarship (1,200 EUR for 4 years) which is free of tax and social insurance or a support contract (about 1,600 EUR for 3 years).

Preferred education

Application deadline
27 August 2019

5 July 2019

Job description

In cooperation with the Friedrich Schiller University Jena, the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry houses a unique and flexible research program that grants German and foreign students a broad selection of learning opportunities while still maintaining a research focus.
The IMPRS-gBGC offers a PhD program specializing in global biogeochemistry and related Earth system sciences. The overall research and teaching focuses on:

  • Improved understanding of biogeochemical processes with an emphasis on terrestrial ecosystems
  • Development of observational techniques to monitor and assess biogeochemical feedbacks in the Earth system
  • Theory and model development for improving the representation of biogeochemical processes in comprehensive Earth system models

Project description:
Phenology is defined as the timing of recurrent biological events and its relationship with biotic and abiotic factors. The global warming has been significantly altering vegetation phenology, mainly leading to an earlier onset and a longer growing season of vegetation. At the same time, changes in vegetation phenology can impact the seasonality of photosynthesis, water cycling and the energy balance of ecosystems. These impacts might in turn feedback on the climate system.
For example, an earlier onset of the growing season causes more CO 2 absorption and an increase of gross primary production (GPP) in spring. However, the earlier spring onset might result in lower soil water content later in the season that can then limit photosynthesis and vegetation growth during the summer.
In this project we aim to understand how phenological changes influence climate through changes in biogeochemical and biophysical feedbacks, and to investigate a series of potential compensatory effects as the ones describe above. The project will make use of datasets from Earth observation satellites and weather reanalysis models together with ground observations of phenological changes.
Specifically, in this PhD project we plan to shed light on some overlooked interactions and feedbacks between phenology and the climate system and we aim at answering the following questions:

  1. How do phenological changes affect evapotranspiration, photosynthetic CO 2 uptake and albedo at regional to global
  2. What are the interactions and feedback between phenological changes and the climate system?
  3. What is the contribution of phenological changes to global climate change?

How to apply

Online applications for the program are open to well-motivated and highly-qualified candidates from all countries. A prerequisite is a diploma or master of science degree in geophysical sciences, environmental sciences, biological sciences, physics, chemistry, computer sciences or related fields, including a corresponding thesis. Proficiency in English is required since English is the official language of the program.

Applications to the IMPRS-gBGC are open to well-motivated and highly-qualified students from all countries. For this particular PhD project we seek a candidate willing to work with large dataset including satellite data and climate reanalysis. Capability to work in an international team, good communication and written skills in English language. The ideal candidate should be able to work with programming languages such as R, Python, or Julia.
The candidate should have a Master degree in a discipline related to the environmental sciences with a strong quantitative/computational background (e.g. geoecology, environmental science, biogeochemistry, biology, geography, environmental informatics, applied mathematics, physics).

The Max Planck Society seeks to increase the number of women in those areas where they are underrepresented and therefore explicitly encourages women to apply. The Max Planck Society is committed to increasing the number of individuals with disabilities in its workforce and therefore encourages applications from such qualified individuals.