PhD project offered by the IMPRS-gBGC in Jan 2023


Process understanding of dryland vegetation dynamics in a changing world

Jianbei Huang , Susan Trumbore , Bojie, Fu , Shilong, Piao , Sönke Zaehle

Project description

Drylands cover ~40% of global land area, are home to ~40% of the global population and harbor more than 20% of global biodiversity. However, drylands face significant challenges from climate change (e.g. changes in temperature and precipitation patterns) and intensified anthropogenic activities and disturbance (e.g. over-grazing) leading to land degradation and desertification. Despite the severe consequences, our ability to accurately assess and predict vegetation dynamics remains uncertain, largely due to lack of understanding of the biological and ecological mechanisms/processes driving the spatial-temporal dynamics of dryland vegetation under climate change and land use changes.

In the framework of a highly collaborative and interdisciplinary project between the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry (MPI-BGC) and Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS-RCEES and CAS-ITP), this PhD project provides a unique platform for the candidate to integrate resources and expertise across disciplines to improve our understanding and predictions of dryland carbon-water relations under global environmental change, such as rising CO2, increasing aridity and temperature, and nitrogen deposition. Specifically, the candidate will: 1) use state-of-the-art lab protocols to examine the key functional traits/processes that determine plant carbon-water relations; 2) combine collected data and existing databases (e.g., TRY, FLUXNET) to investigate carbon-water relations across scales; 3) collaborate with modelers to improve predictions of dryland carbon-water relations under global environmental change scenarios.

Working group & cooperations

The successful applicant will be affiliated with the MPI-BGC Processes Department (Dr. Jianbei Huang and Prof. Susan Trumbore), and will benefit from close collaborations with the MPI-BGC Signals Department (Prof. Sönke Zaehle, Terrestrial Biosphere Modelling), CAS-RCEES (Prof. Bojie Fu, ecosystem service assessment), and CAS-ITP (Prof. Shilong Piao, eddy-covariance fluxes and remote sensing). As part of the joint MPG-CAS research project, the PhD candidate also has the opportunity to collaborate with researchers from other MPI and CAS institutions, spanning multiple disciplines.


Applications to the IMPRS-gBGC are open to well-motivated and highly-qualified students from all countries. Prerequisites for this PhD project are
  • A Master’s degree in ecology, biology, geography, biogeochemistry, or disciplines related to environmental sciences.
  • Experiences or a strong interest in stable isotopes (e.g., 14C, 13C or 18O) and/or radiocarbon.
  • Knowledge on plant ecology/ecophysiology is preferred.
  • Good English written and communication skills.
The Max Planck Society (MPS) strives for gender equality and diversity. The MPS seeks to increase the number of women in those areas where they are underrepresented and therefore explicitly encourages women to apply. The MPS is committed to increasing the number of individuals with disabilities in its workforce and therefore encourages applications from such qualified individuals.

The stable isotope (left) and radiocarbon (right) lab that can provide strong support for the PhD project. © <a href="">IsoLab</a> and <a href="">14C Analysis group</a>
The stable isotope (left) and radiocarbon (right) lab that can provide strong support for the PhD project. © IsoLab and 14C Analysis group

>> more information about the IMPRS-gBGC + application