PhD Position in Earth System Science
University of Zurich Department of Geography

Department of Geography, ESS

PhD 1.B position in Earth System Science: "Understanding common pool resource dynamics through mathematical modelling of social-ecological systems"
60 %

The successful applicant will be part of the Earth System Science research group and join a dynamic, internationally oriented research team. We are looking for candidates who have an interest in the mathematical modeling social-ecological systems and its application to further our understanding of Earth system dynamics in the context of the Anthropocene. Below follows a brief outline of the project and its aims:

"One of the key challenges of the 21st century is the sustainable management of common pool resources such as marine fish stocks and tropical forests. The social-ecological systems framework (Ostrom 2009) provides a promising approach to identify system attributes that may promote or impede sustainable management. For example, this framework enables specific predictions of how the number of resource users, and the transaction costs of organizing these users, affects the potential for sustainable management. Until now, however, there is no mathematical theory describing how specific interactions within the user network affect stability of the common pool resource system, and the potential for its sustainable management. This project aims to develop this theory, utilizing recently developed network approaches in ecology (Eppinga et al. 2018a). In addition, the developed theory will be empirically tested, using controlled experiments in the University of Zurich's Earth System Science (ESS) social learning lab and/or field observations from (one of the) ESS lab's study systems (e.g. Eppinga and Pucko 2018; Santos et al. 2018)."

Relevant references:

Eppinga, M.B., Baudena, M., Johnson, D.J., Jiang, J., Mack, K.M.L., Strand, A.E., Bever, J.D. 2018a. Frequency-dependent feedback constrains plant community coexistence. Nature Ecology and Evolution 2: 1403-1407.

Eppinga, M.B., Pucko, C.A. 2018. The impact of hurricanes Irma and Maria on the forest ecosystems of Saba and St. Eustatius, northern Caribbean. Biotropica 50: 723-728.

Ostrom, E.O. 2009. A general framework for analyzing sustainability of social-ecological systems. Science 325: 419-422.

Santos, M.J., Disney, M., Chave, J. 2018. Detecting human presence and influence in Neotropical forests with remote sensing. Remote Sensing 10: 1593.

Your responsibilities

Your main tasks include designing and completing your Ph.D. project, contributing to our teaching program and participating in research-related activities within the ESS group, the Geography Department and UZH. Applicants are expected to contribute to the international research community by communicating their research findings in internationally recognized peer-reviewed journals and conferences.

Your profile

Applicants are required to have a Masters' degree in a topic related to Sustainability, Earth System Science, Ecology, Geography, Applied Mathematics, Environmental Physics or related relevant disciplines, and be able to demonstrate oral and written communication skills in English. Candidates with proven (analytical and numerical) modelling and programming experience (using e.g. Matlab, Python, Fortran or R) are especially encouraged to apply.

What we offer

We offer a stimulating and exciting work environment that provides plenty of opportunities to develop an academic career and promote gender equality and diversity.
The salary is commensurate with the regulations of the Swiss National Science Foundation. Funding for project-related fieldwork is available.

Place of work

ESS, Department of Geography, University of Zurich-Irchel

Start of employment

Starting date is as agreed upon, latest October 1st 2019. The position is for three years with possibilities for extension.

If you are interested, please send a letter of application, your curriculum vitae, copies of relevant diplomas, two names of possible referees, and a writing sample in 1 single pdf file to Rita Ott.

Further information

Please direct informal inquiries to Maria J. Santos or to Maarten Eppinga.

If you apply for this position please say you saw it on Physicaloxy


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