Wednesday, August 28, 2013

PhD announcement: Multi-scale Remote Sensing Retrieval Methods for Carbon Stock Estimates

PhD Student - Multi-scale Remote Sensing Retrieval Methods for Carbon Stock Estimates


International Max Planck Research School for Global Biogeochemical Cycles

Germany, Jena


Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Christiane Schmullius


Project description

This PhD project targets to develop a robust methodology to support the assessment of carbon stocks and to monitor carbon changes along a Savannah-to-rainforest transect in Mexico using in situ measurements and remote sensing data. The proposed monitoring tool will facilitate quantitative estimations in loss of carbon storage and support the selection of terrestrial (e.g. tropical dry forests, shrublands) sites for conservation priorities with high value for the national carbon budget. 

For terrestrial products, algorithms and models using high spatial resolution satellite data will be trained and calibrated with site-specific data. Up-scaling to coarser resolutions is important for operational monitoring of intra- and inter-annual processes and can be performed using satellite time series data. The products will be jointly generated with the local authorities to ensure their use for the ecosystem service component carbon stocks, i.e. an objective process of providing incentives to land owners, the monitoring of the compliance of the obligations, and the budgeting of carbon in the landscape. 

The successful candidate is expected to develop a monitoring strategy that takes full advantage of Earth observation data and will lead to a system that can be used by the concerned Mexican authorities (CONAFOR, CONABIO) for their REDD-programme (Reducing Emissions by avoiding Deforestation and Degradation). The monitoring strategy shall exploit satellite images from different sensors with a variety of spectral and geometrical resolutions in conjunction with the available Mexican environmental databases. Further field and laboratory work is planned in order to capture state variables of the forest parameters. The scientific objective is the development of a new set of retrieval algorithms for the upcoming ESA-satellites Sentinel-1 and -2 by exploiting synergistic radar-optical interaction mechanisms with the surface conditions and by taking advantage of higher temporal repetition frequencies and various, higher-resolved geometric resolutions. This work is imbedded in the Global Forest Observation Initiative (GFOI) of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO). Mexico is one of GEO’s Forest Carbon Tracking National Demonstrator countries.


Working group & planned collaborations

The Department for Earth Observation at the Friedrich Schiller University Jena was established in January 2000 and employs now 18 remote sensing scientists. Research focuses on land applications ranging from operational vegetation mapping (specifically biomass) to crop and soil moisture monitoring. The Department is internationally recognized for its radar modelling approaches based on interferometry and hyper-temporal datasets, large area mapping exercises and exploitation of multi-scale radar-optical synergy. 

Recently, the algorithm workbench was extended to deformation mapping with persistent scatterer techniques and an optical data assimilation system.


The Research School

The successful candidate will become a member of the International Max Planck Research School for Global Biogeochemical Cycles (IMPRS-gBGC). The school provides excellent research possibilities for students to obtain a PhD degree in a 3-years graduate program.

The elements key to life such as carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, and nitrogen are continuously exchanged among the land, ocean and atmosphere in what are known as global biogeochemical cycles. Research in the IMPRS-gBGC discovers how these cycles function, how they are interconnected, and how they can change with climate or human activity. 
In their thesis projects, students deal with various crucial aspects of global biogeochemical cycles and participate in ongoing research comprising field observations, method development, experiments, and modeling. Students will also benefit from a three-month external research visit, specialised courses in e.g. statistics, Earth observation, modelling and analytical techniques, as well as in soft skills and will have ample opportunity to develop their personal career networks. 
The school is thus an excellent starting platform for a successful career in a field related to global biogeochemical cycles and Earth System Science.



Applications to the IMPRS-gBGC are open to well-motivated and highly-qualified students from all countries. For this particular PhD project we seek a candidate with completed academic studies (University or University of Applied Science, M.Sc. or equivalent) and substantiated knowledge in the field of optical and radar remote sensing. The candidate should have very good experience in dealing with remote sensing software (e.g. PCI Geomatics or ENVI IDL and Gamma) as well as R, IDL or Matlab and the processing of large data volumes. High competence in advanced radar applications (polarimetry, interferometry) for Savannah and/or tropical environments is required. 

Motivation, teamwork capacity, the willingness to enter new subject areas (e.g. other programming languages, radar backscattering theory) and a keen interest in spatio-temporal and synergistic optical-radar retrieval algorithms are a prerequisite for the successful realisation of the project. 

The candidate is expected to carry out the necessary technical and theoretical work with a high degree of self-organisation. Due to the necessary field work in Mexico, fluency in English and good communication skills in Spanish are necessary. The work shall start on January 1st, 2014.


How to apply

Application deadline for these fully funded PhD positions is September 30, 2013. Top candidates will be invited to take part in our selection symposium (December 03-04, 2013).

Apply online:


After you have been selected

The IMPRS-gBGC office will happily assist you with your transition to Jena.

Successful applicants are expected to join us in winter 2013/14 and will receive a PhD stipend to cover their living expenses. There are no tuition fees.

Handicapped persons with comparable qualifications receive preferential status.


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