PhD student in Carbon Cycle - Earth-Surface-Process – Climate Feedbacks (m/f)

University of Potsdam / GFZ Potsdam
Potsdam, Brandenburg (DE)
Oct 05, 2018
Nov 04, 2018
Job Vacancy No. 1654
Career Level
Student / Graduate
Education Level
Job Type
Relocation Cost
No Relocation
Sector Type

Sources and transformation of organic carbon in the fold and thrust belt of the NW Argentinian pre-cordillera

This position will be part of the DFG-funded STRATEGY International Research Training Group (IRTG), whose aim is to study Surface processes, Tectonics and Georesources within the Andean foreland basin of Argentina. Within this framework, we are seeking a student for an interdisciplinary project investigating interactions between earth surface processes, tectonics and climate and their effect on the long-term evolution of the Earth’s carbon cycle. Specifically, the project will aim to better constrain the quantity and effect of organic carbon fluxes from the east Andes and through the adjacent foreland over geological timescales (StRATEGy project 1.4). 
The PhD student will be employed by the University of Potsdam but placed at the German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ) in Potsdam, within Section 5.1 Geomorphology and supervised by Dr. Dirk Sachse and Prof. Niels Hovius. This interdisciplinary supervisor team has leading expertise in organic geochemistry, biogeochemistry, sedimentology, geomorphology and paleoclimatology, and is driving the development of Earth Surface Dynamics as an integrated discipline.

Your responsibilities:

  • define, in dialogue with the supervisors, a feasible research project addressing the stated general aim
  • organize and pursue field work in the NW Argentinian Andeans for sampling river sediment and river water, soil samples and sediment profiles.
  • identify and constrain modern organic matter source regions and mobilization/transformation processes, and to reconstruct source changes and palaeohydrological changes over time using organic geochemical characterization of samples (i.e. biomarker isotope analyses (δD & δ13C & 14C, high-resolution mass spectrometry…).
  • evaluate the tectonic and climatic drivers of carbon cycle changes within the Andean system, and to estimate organic carbon fluxes and their importance on longer geological timescales.
  • set up and maintain a close collaboration within an interdisciplinary German-Argentinean network of leading earth scientists and doctoral students in Geology, Biogeochemistry, Geophysics.

Your qualifications:

  • university degree (M.Sc. or equivalent) in Geosciences, Biogeosciences, Paleoclimatology, Geochemistry or related; we especially encourage applications from candidates who have completed thesis projects in (isotope) geochemistry or Earth Surface Dynamics.
  • proficiency in English, good communication skills; knowledge of Spanish is of advantage
  • experience of geological field work.
  • proven ability to work independently in geochemical laboratories
  • an enthusiastic willingness to engage in interdisciplinary exchanges with colleagues in the IRTG and beyond.

Starting date: as soon as possible
Fixed term: 3 years
Salary: The pay scale grouping will be according to pay group 13 TV-L provided that all tariff related and personal requirements are met.
Working hours: part-time 75% (currently 29.25 h/week) 
Location: Potsdam

You can expect a very diverse and challenging job in an international work environment that is characterized by exciting research projects. 

The GFZ is a partner with Geo.X (, and as such it is well connected with other geoscience institutions in Potsdam und Berlin. Geo.X forms the largest regional cluster of geoscientific expertise in Europe and offers excellent opportunities for cooperation and development.

Please submit your application by 20/10/18 directly via email to Dr. Dirk Sachse ( Inlcude a CV and a motivation letter outlining your research interests as one pdf document. Questions with regard to the project should also be directed to Dr. Dirk Sachse.

Equal opportunity is an inherent part of our personnel policy. Therefore we are particularly welcoming applications from qualified women. Severely disabled persons will be given preferential treatment in the case of equal qualification.

We will retain your application documents for at least three months, even if the application is not successful.

Project abstract:

Sources and transformation of organic carbon in the fold and thrust belt of the NW Argentinian pre-cordillera
Organic carbon mobilized from soils (biospheric carbon) as well as from sedimentary rocks (petrogenic carbon) in orogenic ranges is now being recognized as a major component of the Earth’s carbon cycle. Long-term burial of modern biospheric carbon in oceanic sinks results in a removal of CO2 from the atmosphere, whereas oxidation of petrogenic carbon would add CO2 to the atmosphere, hence impacting the long-term evolution of climate. However, our understanding of the processes controlling mobilization and potential oxidation of this carbon during transport, redeposition and remobilization downstream is limited, preventing a quantitative assessment of organic carbon fluxes and their changes over time.
We aim to understand sources and transformation of organic carbon originating from the NW Argentinian foothills of the Andes and deposited in the fold and thrust belt over various geological timescales. Fingerprinting the organic material using organic-geochemical, stable and radiogenic isotope-based approaches, we investigate organic carbon in modern soils, intramontane sedimentary basins and modern rivers draining the Andes along steep climatological gradients. Using these tools we aim to identify the tectonic and climatic drivers and estimate organic carbon fluxes and assess their importance on longer geological timescales.
PIs:Dirk Sachse, Niels Hovius (GFZ Section 5.1)
Collaborating PIs in Argentina: 
Luis Palazessi (Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales "Bernardino Rivadavia", Buenos Aires): Expertise in paleoclimate, paleovegetation 
Ricardo Szupiany, Dr. Fransisco Latosinski (Universidad Nacional del Litoral · Faculty of Engineering and Water Sciences FICH, Santa Fe): Expertise in fluvial geomorphology, sediment transport 

Project managment: Verónica Torres Acosta (University of Potsdam)