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PhD position: New physical indicators for soil health in Zürich

Studierende finden an der ETH Zürich ein Umfeld, das eigenständiges Denken fördert, Forschende ein Klima, das zu Spitzenleistungen inspiriert.


100%, Zurich, fixed-term

The ETH research group PoSE (Physics of Soils and Terrestrial Ecosystems; chair: Prof. Andrea Carminati) studies the physics of soil water and the fundamental implications for plant water relations and life in soils. We quantify processes in soils and across the soil–vegetation–atmosphere system at various scales using imaging, various experimental methods, and numerical tools.

Project background

Natural soil sustains biomass production and serves as a habitat for living creatures, forming a huge carbon pool. Various indicators must be defined to monitor and quantify soil health to maintain the various soil functions in a changing climate and with increasing population pressure. To quantify physical aspects of soil health, properties that can be deduced destructively from small samples (texture, porosity, soil hydraulic properties) are often used but they cannot capture soil structures and their impact on various soil functions. Accordingly, we look for new physical indicators for soil health that (i) quantify structural quantities, (ii) include their impact on soil functions, and (iii) link them to environmental covariates that can be deduced from remote sensing products.

Job description

You will explore the relationship between soil structural quantities and information that can easily be deduced from lab measurements or mathematical rules denoted as pedotransfer functions. This relationship will then be applied to predict soil physical properties (characteristic length of evaporation, drainage and ponding times) that integrate material properties at the scale relevant to soil functions. As the last step, the new soil physical indicators will be calculated at a continental and global scale.

Your profile

You should possess a Master's degree from an accredited university or an equivalent ( e.g. German "Diplom", French “DEA”) in the areas of environmental sciences, engineering, or statistics. You should be independent, inquisitive and capable of formulating new research questions, developing research strategies, presenting research at conferences and publishing research results in international scientific journals.

Strong communication skills, experience in handling large data and machine learning experience would be an advantage. The candidate is expected to assist with teaching and other activities of the group.

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We offer

ETH Zurich is a family-friendly employer with excellent working conditions. You can look forward to an exciting working environment, cultural diversity and attractive offers and benefits.

More information is available on the ETH website regarding and .

We value diversity
In line with our values, ETH Zurich encourages an inclusive culture. We promote equality of opportunity, value diversity and nurture a working and learning environment in which the rights and dignity of all our staff and students are respected. Visit our to find out how we ensure a fair and open environment that allows everyone to grow and flourish.

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