Investigation of functional responses of open water bodies to climate forcing in Siberia *

PhD project offered by the IMPRS-gBGC in January 2022

Project description

High latitude ecosystems play a pivotal role in the global carbon cycle. Approximately 50% of the global below-ground carbon stocks are stored in northern permafrost soils, a pool twice as large as currently contained in the atmosphere. Future climate change threatens to destabilize these reservoirs, with the potential to trigger strong feedback processes between climate and carbon cycle that further amplify climate change. A key uncertainty in this context is the dynamics of open water bodies linked to permafrost disturbances, triggered e.g. by thawing of ground ice and subsequent sinking of the surface.
This PhD thesis will investigate the carbon exchange processes between open water and the atmosphere for different types of water bodies within heterogeneous permafrost landscapes. The successful candidate will contribute to the design of mobile floating chamber platforms, and deploy these systems in our Northeast Siberian study region. To understand the functional responses of different kinds of lakes and streams to climate forcing, besides the sampling of greenhouse gas fluxes themselves also ancillary parameters such as bathymetry, sediment characteristics, or the influence of specific weather events will be studied. The overarching objective will be to constrain typical emission rates for different types of water bodies, and also different zones within lakes and streams, and contribute towards a better mechanistic understanding of lake morphology impacts on net carbon budgets in Arctic permafrost regions.
The study will involve summer field campaigns in the Kolyma Lowlands region in Siberia to investigate aquatic biogeochemistry and carbon cycle processes. The work will be embedded within the ERC-synergy project Q-Arctic, which aims at observing and modeling the impact of permafrost disturbance processes on future permafrost carbon climate feedbacks. Moreover, the work is also closely coordinated with other ongoing and planned research activities of partner institutions at national and international level. Within this framework, the PhD project is expected to closely interact with, and contribute to, research activities within the other project components of Q-Arctic, including multi-disciplinary in-situ observations, satellite remote sensing and land-surface modeling at regional to pan-Arctic scales.


Applications to the IMPRS-gBGC are open to well-motivated and highly-qualified students from all countries. Prerequisites for this PhD project are:

  • A MSc degree in Geo-ecology, biology/plant ecology, micro-meteorology, hydrology, soil science, or related environmental or geoscientific disciplines
  • Necessary computational skills
    • Data processing and basic programming (e.g. R, Matlab)
    • Good mathematical and
    • Statistical skills
  • Other skills/requirements
    • Very good communication skills in English (essential)
    • Russian language skills (desired)
    • Experience in field work campaigns
    • Interest in global climate change and high latitude ecology

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.

MPI-BGC contacts
Mathias Göckede and Martin Heimann

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