The Department of Geography, University of Zurich (Switzerland) together with the Bern University of Applied Sciences (Switzerland) are offering a position as

Open PhD position in soil science

The title of the project is:

Rock heritage, soil formation and practical implications for the Three Lakes Region (RESTORE)

Description of the PhD thesis:

The Rhone-Aare-glacier system gave rise to large moorlands and lakes in the Three Lakes Region of Western Switzerland. When moorlands are formed, they are efficient sinks of atmospheric carbon, but when transformed to agricultural land they are significant carbon sources. Due to the drainage of this region, a productive agriculture was enabled and a subsequent peat degradation started. As a consequence, the surface of the soils became bumpy and water started to accumulate locally. More and more, these soils are technically changed, restored and backfilled. For this purpose, often local moraine and molasse sediments are used. However, the provenance of this formerly glacially transported material should be known in order to enhance our understanding of the soil systems and to target control strategies for soil amelioration.

Therefore, we address the following major research questions: Which alpine areas contributed to which extent to the parent material for soil formation in Three Lakes Region? How are grain size, (macro)pore properties and soil chemistry characterised as a function of the different provenance? If this material is used for soil restauration, which are the practical consequences? Does the addition of such moraine material help in reducing CO2 emissions from degrading organic soils?

These research questions will be tackled by using a multi-method approach. Chemical fingerprinting and spatial screening of physical properties (grain sizes, pore characteristics) will help in determining the origin of the parent material and define its weathering trajectories. In addition, clay mineralogical and micromorphological investigations will help in determining the suitability for soil amendment. Furthermore, existing older earth deposits will be investigated, their soils characterised and in situ CO2 measurements be carried out.

A close collaboration exists with the University of Calabria (Italy), the Institute of Agrophysics PAS (Lublin, Poland), the cantonal authorities (Bern, Vaud, Fribourg), the Proagricultura Seeland and the Federal Office for the Environment.

Candidates for this position are expected to hold an MSc degree in soil science, geography, geology, environmental sciences, geo-ecology or similar. You should have a sound knowledge in soil and geomorpho-dynamic processes. Knowledge in GIS (ArcGIS or similar) would be an asset.

IMPORTANT: knowledge of the German and/or French language is required.

Start: 1st August 2022 (or by agreement)

Duration of appointment: The position is available for a period of max. 4 years.

Working place: A major part of the thesis is done at the University of Zurich and a minor part at the University of Calabria and the Institute of Agrophysics PAS (Lublin, Poland).

For further information please contact:

Prof. Markus Egli (phone: +41 44 635 51 14; )
Prof. Stéphane Burgos (phone: +41 31 910 29 04;

Application deadline: latest by 22nd of May 2022

We are looking forward to receiving your application. Please submit your application as a pdf-file (including CV, motivation letter, copies of academic qualifications and the contact information of two references) to the following address:

posted: 11 May 2022     Please mention EARTHWORKS when responding to this advertisement.