School of Environment and Sustainability

PhD Position - Aquatic Ecosystem Science

Improving the understanding of carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations and risk of
nuisance algal blooms in wetlands in agricultural landscapes


Dr. Irena Creed with the School of Environment and Sustainability ( at the University of Saskatchewan is seeking one PhD candidate for the following position. This project is funded by an NSERC Strategic Partnership Grant. The student will be co-supervised by Dr. Charles Trick with the Department of Biology at the University of Western Ontario.

The aim of this project is to improve the understanding of carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus concentrations and the risk of nuisance algal blooms in wetlands on agricultural landscapes in the Prairie Pothole Region of Canada. This project aims to answer the following questions: (1) Is there a relation between ambient CNP and trace metals and algal biomass, proportion of cyanobacteria and toxin likelihood? (2) How well can spectral indicators derived from optical satellite imagery discriminate between cyanobacteria blooms and other algal blooms? (3) Can time series metrics derived from satellite observations be used to provide early warning signals of cyanobacteria blooms in lakes? The outcomes of this study will provide science designed to meet the challenges of incorporating wetlands into policies related to reduction of greenhouse gasses and eutrophication.

PhD Role

The student will design and execute field sampling campaigns for nutrient content, algal biomass (chlorophyll-a (chl-a)), algal community structure, and algal toxin production in study wetlands. They will then conduct laboratory analysis using methods that include the Flow Cam, flow cytometer, phycocyanin and phycoerythrin pigment analysis and microscopes to characterize algal communities within the wetlands. The student will then use a combination of multi-sensor remote sensing data (including MERIS, Sentinel-2 and -3 and LANDSAT) to detect and monitor algal blooms (chl-a, phycocyanin, phycoerythrin) in study wetlands. The collected and analyzed ground based data will be used to calibrate the satellite-based data. The student will use this information to develop a suite of novel time series metrics, including breakpoints, temporal auto-correlation and local standard deviations, to track algal blooms at various spatial resolutions. The combination of spectral data and ground data will test the suitability of the spectral metrics in providing early warning signals of algal blooms in lake ecosystems. The satellite based estimates of chl-a and cyanobacteria will be done in conjunction with a post-doctoral fellow. The student will also have the opportunity to work with the many government, NGO and private partners on this project.

Qualifications for PhD in Environment and Sustainability students

  • Master's degree, or equivalent, from a recognized university in a relevant academic discipline
  • Laboratory experience
  • Competency in GIS/remote sensing
  • Interest in learning multiple techniques to ecosystem science
  • A cumulative weighted average of at least 70% (U of S grade system equivalent) in the last two years of study (i.e., coursework required in Master's program)
  • Proof of English language proficiency may be required for international applicants and for applicants whose first language is not English
  • Written support of a faculty supervisor. Please obtain this by contacting Dr. Irena Creed.


Funding is available for the entirety of the 4 year PhD program.

How to Apply:

Prior to applying, please contact Dr. Irena Creed at with Curriculum Vitae and a letter of intent outlining your fit with the qualifications. Please quote "PhD Opportunity in Aquatic Ecosystem Science" in the subject line of your email.

If encouraged to submit an application, you will be asked to provide official transcripts, Curriculum Vitae and a brief statement of research interest to Dr. Irena Creed. Application details are outlined on the College of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies website, however, please contact Dr. Creed at prior to beginning an application to be pre-vetted.

Start Date: The start date can be as early as May 1, 2018 or September 2018.

Deadline: Applications will be reviewed as they are received.

posted: 07 February 2018     Please mention EARTHWORKS when responding to this advertisement.