Job advertisement PhD in Data-Driven Modeling and Prediction of Wildfires in the Boreal and Arctic (KU Leuven, Belgium)

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PhD in Data-Driven Modeling and Prediction of Wildfires in the Boreal and Arctic (KU Leuven, Belgium)

Position
PhD in Data-Driven Modeling and Prediction of Wildfires in the Boreal and Arctic (KU Leuven, Belgium)

Employer
KU Leuven, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences logo

KU Leuven, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences

KU Leuven is one of Europe’s highest-ranked and most renowned universities. It boasts a long tradition of pioneering research and high-quality education. The main mission of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences is to carry out state-of-the-art scientific research with respect to the functioning of geo- and ecosystems at different spatial and temporal scales, including the interaction between humans and the environment and the sustainable management of natural resources.

Homepage: https://ees.kuleuven.be/


Location
Leuven, Belgium

Sector
Academic

Relevant divisions
Climate: Past, Present & Future (CL)
Geosciences Instrumentation and Data Systems (GI)
Hydrological Sciences (HS)

Type
Full time

Level
Entry level

Salary
Open

Required education
Master

Application deadline
Open until the position is filled

Posted
12 June 2020

Job description

Title:
PhD in Data-Driven Modeling and Prediction of Wildfires in the Boreal and Arctic (KU Leuven, Belgium)

The Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the KU Leuven (Belgium) invites applications for a 4-year PhD position on the data-driven modeling and prediction of wildfires in the boreal and arctic zone. The PhD student will advance our understanding of the occurrence of wildfires in peatland-rich landscapes and make predictions of future occurrence in the course of climate change.

Background:
During the last decade, the Boreal and Arctic experienced several dry spells and heat waves that led to widespread wildfire occurrence over forests and peatlands. The interplay of flaming (dominantly biomass) and smoldering (dominantly peat) combustion makes peatland wildfires very persistent, even ‘overwintering’ (link). Drying as a result of climate change and human activity already led to more frequent, larger, and more severe peatland wildfires. Peatlands play a critical role in wildfire occurrence in peatland-rich regions in general, because peatlands can disrupt the “fuel landscape” when wet, but connect fuels when dry. More peatland fires will exacerbate global warming due to the instantaneous release of ‘legacy soil carbon’ that accumulated over millennia, and aggravate other adversities for the environment and humankind, such as respiratory diseases with the inhalation of noxious smoke and costs of extensive firefighting. 

Project overview:
The project PEATBURN funded by FWO aims at fundamentally improving the large-scale modeling of peatland wildfires by the integration of crucial novel information about the subsurface fuel (=peat!) moisture conditions obtained from satellite data assimilation. Key objectives of PEATBURN are
- to further advance soil moisture satellite data assimilation over peatlands,
- to improve fire danger rating systems used in fire management, and
- to reveal unique large-scale insights into links between peatland moisture and wildfires.
The PhD student will create and analyze large data sets on wildfires and controlling factors (e.g. meteorology including lightning probability, vegetation, soil, multiple satellite observations and retrievals, future predictions of climate and land cover/land-use change), and develop a data-driven modeling approach using machine learning techniques.

The research team:
The PhD student will be part of the land surface modeling and data assimilation research group at KU Leuven, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences. PEATBURN is led by Dr. Michel Bechtold and Prof. Gabrielle De Lannoy. The PhD student will further collaborate with an international team of wildfire experts.

Further information on this and other vacancies of the research group, on the required profiles and on how to apply can be found here:
https://www.kuleuven.be/personeel/jobsite/jobs/55540142

Applications are continuously reviewed. The position can be filled by a suitable candidate at any time. The preferred starting date is the beginning of September but a later date can be negotiated. 

For more information, please contact Dr. Michel Bechtold, tel.: +32 16 32 01 67, e-mail: michel.bechtold@kuleuven.be