Switzerland:PhD project of Reconstructing fire history at University of Zurich

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Job description

We invite applications for a PhD project in our group working on the “Terrestrial carbon cycle (and global change)”. We seek to understand the influence of anthropogenic environmental change, such as increasing number of wildfires, temperature and atmospheric nitrogen deposition, on the terrestrial carbon cycle, with an emphasis on soil organic matter turnover and fate. The title of the PhD project is:

Can we read the fire-history from a “muddy archive”? Biomass burning and fossil fuel combustion reconstructed from North-American lake sediments

With global change, wildfires will become more frequent worldwide. However, the long-term fate of the combustion residues in the terrestrial environment and its influence on the global carbon cycle remain poorly understood.

Within this project we will investigate sedimentary records from North-American lakes in natural setting (Lake Superior) and downwind of urbanized/industrialized areas (Rhode Island) to differentiate fire-residues from biomass burning and fossil fuel combustion. In collaboration with research partners from other institutions, including the Biogeosciences Group led by T. Eglinton at the Geology Department ETH, the PhD student will collect and analyze samples, and interpret results. Laboratory measurements will include cutting edge analytical approaches such as isotopic (13C, 14C) characterization of specific molecular fire markers. Responsibilities include lab work, supervision of students, presentations of results at conferences and publication in international refereed journals. Additionally, we can offer a rewarding PhD-program in a stimulating scientific environment.


Requirements include a Master-degree in biogeochemistry or a related discipline, such as physical geography, geoecology, environmental sciences, geology, and preferably some work experience in field and geochemical analytical methods. Good knowledge of English as working language is essential. A driving license is beneficial.

Conditions of employment

Start upon mutual agreement.


University of Zurich



Additional information

More information on our research group can be found at www.geo.uzh.ch/phys. For further details contact Prof. Dr. Michael Schmidt (michael.schmidt@geo.uzh.ch).

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