The Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) is a member of the Helmholtz Association (HGF) and funded by federal and state government. AWI focuses on polar and marine research in a variety of disciplines such as biology, oceanography, geology, geochemistry and geophysics thus allowing multidisciplinary approaches to scientific goals.

PhD position (m/f/d) to simulate elevational treeline migration and its constraints

Elevational treelines in the Urals respond positively to industrial warming. If ongoing forest expansion keeps pace with future global change it will squeeze vast areas of pristine alpine tundra habitats, possibly to extinction. However, the rate of climate change may outrun a treeline advance. Furthermore, maladaptation and poor genetic connectivity in the landscape may constrain the adaptation of local tree populations. Hence, to unravel the important factors for treeline migration and provide realistic predictions of the future treeline position we need to combine a genetic survey with dendroecological data to fed into a spatially explicit model that can simulate trait adaptations.

We are looking for 1 PhD student (m/f/d) within the Russian-German DFG funded project “Сlimate-induced treeline dynamics in the Ural Mountains: drivers, constraints, and the role of genetic adaptation” (UralTreelines, ) who is enthusiastic to address timely scientific questions about land surface processes in the Arctic and consequences on ecosystems, especially on vegetation dynamics, starting as soon as possible.

The main tasks lay in the interface of model development, molecular data generation and data analyses. This involves development of the individual-based forest model LAVESI by including dynamic adaptation of traits relevant for simulated tree species in the Ural Mountains. Further, effective seed dispersal rates need to be adjusted based on distances inferred from microsatellite-based genotyping. Following a validation of the model, the importance of the newly implemented processes for historical treeline dynamics shall be evaluated. With the enhanced model, we aim to improve our understanding about responses of boreal forests in the Urals under climate warming in the next decades and to estimate if the potential migration would ultimately cause a tundra loss.

You will


Further Information
For further information, please contact Prof. Dr. Ulrike Herzschuh (; +49(331)288-2165) or Dr. Stefan Kruse (; +49(331)288-2218)

The position is limited to 3 years. The salary will be paid in accordance with the Collective Agreement for the Public Service of the Federation (Tarifvertrag des öffentlichen Dienstes, TVöD Bund), up to salary level 13 (66%). The place of employment will be Potsdam.

All doctoral candidates will be members of AWI's postgraduate program POLMAR or another graduate school and thus benefit from a comprehensive training program and extensive support measures.

The AWI is characterised by

Equal opportunities are an integral part of our personnel policy. The AWI aims to increase the number of female employees and therefore strongly encourages qualified women to apply.

Disabled applicants will be given preference when equal qualifications are present.

The AWI fosters the compatibility of work and family in various ways and has received a number of awards as a result of this engagement.

We look forward to your application!
Please forward your application by April 26th 2021 exclusively online.
Reference number 21/76/D/Geo-b