Two PhD Positions: Hydrology-Carbon interactions in thawing Permafrost

The Global Institute for Water Security is working with Environment and Climate Change Canada to develop tools for assessing water quality and climate impacts on prairie and northern rivers. Under this project, we are seeking two PhD students to work on Climate Change impacts on permafrost in the North West Territories.

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The projects will be based at Baker Creek, located on treaty 11 territory. The students will conduct field work during the spring-summer months to observe changes in the permafrost, soil moisture, groundwater, streamflow and export of Carbon. Both students will work in a team that includes Andrew Ireson, Colin Whitfield, Chris Spence, Barrie Bonsal, Helen Baulch, Martyn Clark, Diogo Da Costa and Karl Lindenschmidt. The students will also work collaboratively with one another on a model for carbon export from permafrost landscapes on the Canadian Shield. One project will focus primarily on the hydrological processes, and will combine field observations with models. This project will be supervised by Andrew Ireson and Chris Spence. Under a warming climate, as permafrost thaws, the subsurface flow pathways are expected to change, as depicted in the diagram below showing our hypothesis for how the system will change. Thawing will lead to thickening of the active layer, the expansion of taliks and enhanced groundwater discharge and export of dissolved carbon from uplands into wetlands and streams. The student that undertakes this project will have excellent understanding of hydrological processes, excellent mathematical modelling skills and will have, or develop, excellent computational skills.

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The other project will focus primarily on the carbon processes. This project will be supervised by Colin Whitfield and Chris Spence. In this project, field work will be undertaken to quantify the stores and fluxes of carbon in the soils, groundwater, wetlands and streams. This project will study the mechanisms of carbon transport and how these are coupled to the hydrological processes. The student that undertakes this project will have an excellent background in biogeochemisty, a good understanding of hydrology, prior experience conducting fieldwork (ideally in remote environments) and will have, or develop, excellent computational skills.

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Each PhD is fully funded and available immediately. The students will be based in Saskatoon within the Global Institute for Water Security, the leading center for water resources research in Canada. Portions of the work will be carried out at Baker Creek. There can be options to work remotely for parts of the program when coursework has been completed, and when not in the field. The students will be members of Dr Ireson’s and Dr Whitfield’s lab groups, and engage with other students working in these groups. The students will also work closely with Environment and Climate Change Canada, and gain experience of research work within that organization. There will be opportunities to attend national and international conferences, and students will be mentored to publish their work in high impact journals. We are dedicated to equity, diversity and inclusion and will seek out individuals that will enrich our work and mutual learning environment.

If you are interested, please contact Andrew (andrew.ireson@usask.ca). The positions will remain open until filled.