Lund University, Department of Physical Geograhy and Ecosystem Science

Lund University was founded in 1666 and is repeatedly ranked among the world’s top universities. The University has around 47 000 students and more than 8 800 staff based in Lund, Helsingborg and Malmö. We are united in our efforts to understand, explain and improve our world and the human condition.

Lund University welcomes applicants with diverse backgrounds and experiences. We regard gender equality and diversity as a strength and an asset.

Subject description

Roots play a pivotal role in partitioning resources needed for plant development and mediating terrestrial ecosystem functions in the energy, water and biogeochemical cycles. This role even becomes more critical in northern ecosystems, like Arctic tundra, where resources (light, water, and nutrients) are often limited, ecological/physical processes are ephemeral, and ecosystems undergo the most rapid climatic changes on the planet. However, root growth and function for tundra plants remain one of the least understood aspects in terrestrial ecosystems. Therefore, it is imperative to have a better understanding of how roots respond to climatic warming and to make a comprehensive assessment of how vegetation-induced feedbacks can impact on the regional and global climate system.

In this project, we look for a PhD candidate to investigate biotic and abiotic drivers for the changes in plant root traits and how these changes have impacts on ecosystem carbon and nitrogen cycles. Based on the compiled database of plant root traits and literature, the PhD candidate will conduct a meta-analysis about the relationships of root traits and biotic and abiotic drivers. Based on a long-term sampling of root and carbon flux dataset, the PhD candidate will then develop an advanced root module in an individual-based dynamic global vegetation model (LPJ-GUESS) to properly represent root dynamics in terms of carbon allocation, dynamic root distribution and plastic responses of extracting nutrients and water for arctic tundra ecosystems. The model will further be incorporated in the framework of a regional Earth system model to dynamically downscale future climate scenarios and assess impacts of biogeophysical and biogeochemical feedback to the regional and global climate system.

The PhD position will be fully funded by the research grant from Swedish VR, Crafoord and BECC. The PhD candidate will be supervised by Dr. Wenxin Zhang together a team of researchers working with field measurements and ecosystem modelling at Lund University, University of Copenhagen, and Universe of Gothenburg. Research outcomes of the project will contribute to two Strategic Research Areas (BECC, Biodiversity and Ecosystem services in a Changing Climate, and (MERGE, Modelling the Regional and Global Earth system, at Lund University.

Work duties

The main duties of doctoral students are to devote themselves to their research studies which includes participating in research projects and third cycle courses. The work duties can also include teaching and other departmental duties (no more than 20%). The student will participate in the fieldwork at least two times during the entire PhD project period to collect soil and plant samples. He/she will develop and apply the LPJ-GUESS dynamic vegetation model, working closely with colleagues in LPJ-GUESS modelling and Arctic fieldwork community.

Tasks will mostly include model development, simulations and data analysis, and leading the writing of peer-reviewed papers, reports and deliverables based on the results.

Exact topics and work plans will be agreed in discussion with the supervisors, with flexibility according to the interest of the student, but will be developed in the context of the PhD project, including ensuring that relevant project milestones and deliverables are met. Participation in national and international meetings and workshops related to the above is expected, as is carrying out related administration and communication activities.

Admission requirements

A person meets the general admission requirements for third-cycle courses and study programmes if he or she has been awarded a second-cycle qualification, or has satisfied the requirements for courses comprising at least 240 credits of which at least 60 credits were awarded in the second cycle, or has acquired substantially equivalent knowledge in some other way in Sweden or abroad.

A person meets the specific admission requirements for third cycle studies in Physical Geography and Ecosystem Science if he or she has passed an independent project (for example a degree project) of at least 30 credits in a relevant subject and have very good oral and written proficiency in English.

Additional requirements:

High-quality research work (e.g. Masters/Bachelors thesis) evidencing substantial potential as a researcher.

Assessment criteria and other qualifications

  • Knowledge and skills relevant to the thesis project and the subject of study, including grades;
  • An assessment of ability to work independently and to formulate and tackle research problems;
  • Written and oral communication skills in English;
  • Other experience relevant to the third-cycle studies focused on Arctic plant physiology, ecosystem modelling and climate change.
  • Level of subject knowledge relating to Arctic carbon cycle, nitrogen cycle and ecosystem dynamics.
  • Experience or knowledge of fieldwork, particularly N15 tracer experiment, soil and plant sampling.
  • Experience of running an ecosystem model.
  • Quality and level of previous research work.
  • Advanced level of working with Python/R/Matlab language.

Students with basic eligibility for third-cycle studies are those who- have completed a second-cycle degree- have completed courses of at least 240 credits, of which at least 60 credits are from second-cycle courses, or- have acquired largely equivalent knowledge in some other way, in Sweden or abroad.

The employment of doctoral students is regulated in the Swedish Code of Statues 1998: 80. Only those who are or have been admitted to PhD-studies may be appointed to doctoral studentships. When an appointment to a doctoral studentship is made, the ability of the student to benefit from PhD-studies shall primarily be taken into account. In addition to devoting themselves to their studies, those appointed to doctoral studentships may be required to work with educational tasks, research and administration, in accordance with specific regulations in the ordinance.

Instructions on how to apply

Applications shall be written in English and include a cover letter stating the reasons why you are interested in the position and in what way the research project corresponds to your interests and educational background. The application must also contain a CV, degree certificate or equivalent, and other documents you wish to be considered (grade transcripts, contact information for your references, letters of recommendation, etc.).

Type of employment
Limit of tenure, four years according to HF 5 kap 7§.

Welcome to apply!


Type of employment Temporary position
First day of employment 2024-08-01
Salary Monthly salary
Number of positions 1
Full-time equivalent 100
City Lund
County Skåne län
Country Sweden
Reference number PA2024/1466
  • Wenxin Zhang, +46462220000
Union representative
  • OFR/ST:Fackförbundet ST:s kansli, 046-2229362
  • SEKO: Seko Civil, 046-2229366
  • SACO:Saco-s-rådet vid Lunds universitet,
Published 06.May.2024
Last application date 28.May.2024 11:59 PM CEST

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