PhD project offered by the IMPRS-gBGC in Jan 2024


Groundwater under pressure – exploring climate change impacts on groundwater recharge and quality and drinking water safety

Kai U. Totsche , Christoph Gerbig

Project description

European climate changes at more than double of the speed compared to all other continents. The increasing temperatures, extended droughts and extreme heat waves meanwhile show adverse impacts also on the subsurface, thereby threating the biota inhabiting the subsurface and progressively deteriorating ecosystems services including drinking water provision. Access to save and secure drinking water is one of the eight targets to be achieved by the UN sustainable development goal 6. Most of the world’s population depends on the provision of drinking water from groundwater resources. Yet, growing demands together with the increasing temperature, droughts, changing precipitation regimes and trends to increasing evapotranspiration threaten groundwater recharge and quality and thus drinking water safety and security also in Europe. In this project we aim to assess the impact of climate and water-use change on groundwater resources (recharge amount, storage capacity, quality) of catchments with utmost importance for the provision of drinking water in Europe. Methodologically, among others cross-correlation analysis of multivariate time-series of climate and groundwater monitoring data will be performed. With the data available through our long-term field study at the critical-zone exploratory Hainich (, the project will analyse the attribution of climate change to the detected changes in groundwater storage, recharge, and quality (“Attribution study”). The latter will require a pairwise scenario modelling (w/o climate change forcing) with the catchment-scale hydrogeologic model developed at the Department of Hydrogeology of FSU Jena.

Working group & cooperations

The successful applicant will be affiliated with the Institute of Geosciences at Friedrich-Schiller-University in Jena (Prof. Dr. Kai Uwe Totsche, Department of Hydrogeology) and the MPI-BGC Signals Department (Dr. Christoph Gerbig, Airborne trace gas measurements and mesoscale modelling (ATM)). The PhD-project is tightly linked with the collaborative research project AquaDiva, an ongoing coordinated research project that will grant access to its long-term observation data. The PhD project is connected to the Michael Stifel Center for Data Driven and Simulation Sciences providing the opportunity to interact and collaborate with researchers from a vast variety of disciplines that are intrigued by pushing forward data driven science.

Requirements for the PhD project are

We welcome applications from curious and motivated students from any country who have
  • A Master's degree in hydrogeology, meteorology, applied mathematics, computer sciences, environmental science, geosciences, (geo-)ecology, hydrology or related disciplines in environmental sciences.
  • Interest in processing and statistical analysis of multivariate environmental data sets
  • Background in time series analysis
  • Basic understanding of groundwater modelling or related numerical modelling problems
  • Interest in climate adaption and mitigation
  • Good oral and written communication skills in English
The Max Planck Society (MPS) strives for gender equality and diversity. The MPS aims to increase the proportion of women in areas where they are underrepresented. Women are therefore explicitly encouraged to apply. We welcome applications from all fields. The Max Planck Society has set itself the goal of employing more severely disabled people. Applications from severely disabled persons are expressly encouraged.

>> more information about the IMPRS-gBGC + application