2 x 2 year Postdoctoral Research Assistant (PDRA) Positions in subglacial hydrological and biogeochemical modelling

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2 x 2 year Postdoctoral Research Assistant (PDRA) Positions in subglacial hydrological and biogeochemical modelling

Frank Pattyn

The Biogeochemistry and Modeling of the Earth System group (http://biogeomod.ulb.be/) and

the Laboratoire de Glaciologie (http://dev.ulb.ac.be/glaciol/index.htm) at the Université libre de

Bruxelles are inviting applications for


2 x 2 year Postdoctoral Research Assistant (PDRA) Positions in

subglacial hydrological and biogeochemical modelling


Project Background:

Climate change is amplified in polar regions. As a consequence, ice sheets and glaciers (and

in particular the Greenland Ice Sheet) are currently experiencing record melting, resulting in a

significant increase of already substantial summer freshwater fluxes to the ocean. While the

physical consequences of this freshwater input, as well as its alarming increase have been

intensively studied, its biogeochemical dimension remains poorly understood.

Once thought to be devoid of life, mounting evidence suggests that subglacial environments

are incredibly active biogeochemical reactors that supply globally significant fluxes of labile,

bio-essential nutrients and carbon. Yet, the nature of the magnitude and timing of these export

fluxes and, as a consequence, their response to projected climate change are poorly

understood. This knowledge gap is critical because it not only limits our ability to fully evaluate

the role of ice sheets and glaciers in the evolution of global biogeochemical cycles and climate,

to key ocean regions.

Therefore, the overarching objective of this innovative project is to make a step change in this

area by developing the very first, mechanistic, hydrological-biogeochemical model framework

for subglacial environment. The timely and novel model tool will then be used to explore the

main controls on present and future subglacial carbon and nutrient export.


The Positions:

Direct observations of the subglacial bioreactor are due to its remoteness, limited accessibility,

as well as dynamic and complex nature difficult or even impossible. Most of our current

knowledge is derived from analyzing subglacial outflow at land-terminating glaciers. Although

these observations have provided pioneering insights into the functioning of the subglacial

environment, they nevertheless only represent an integral signal and are thus of limited

analytic and predictive use. In this respect, models are, in combination with observations, ideal

tools to disentangle the complex process interplay, identify the main controls and predict its

response to climate change.

To this end, the PDRAs will develop and apply a fully coupled hydrological-biogeochemical

model for subglacial environments. The task of model development will be shared between

the two PDRA positions with one position focusing on the development of the hydrological

component (as part of an ice-sheet/glacier model), while the second position will focus on the

biogeochemical component of the model. Model development and application will be carried

out in a collaborative framework between all researchers/research groups involved. The

positions will thus allow the candidates to not only work in a dynamic and interdisciplinary

environment, but also to further develop a truly interdisciplinary skill set.

The two PDRAs thus play a key role in interdisciplinary knowledge synthesis. They will be

required to closely collaborate with all project partners. In addition, the successful candidates

will have opportunities to present the research at project meetings and international



The environment

Brussels is a lively, well-connected city with a large international community located in the

very centre of Europe.

The project will combine the research strength of the GEMICE and BGeoSys groups at ULB

and the two PDRAs will be embedded in both groups.

The BGeoSys group (Biogeochemistry and Modelling of the Earth System) focuses on the

study of biogeochemical dynamics in different compartments of the Earth System and their

role in shaping the present and past climates of the Earth. Its approach encompasses

experimental, modelling and field work covering a large spectrum of temporal (seconds to

billion years) and spatial (nanometer to the global) scales.

The GEMICE group (Geophysics and Modelling of Ice) of the Laboratoire de Glaciologie is

specialized in the development and application of numerical ice sheet and ice shelf models,

applied to specific glaciological problems, such as grounding lines, ice streams, ice sheet/ice

shelf transitions, subglacial lake interconnection, subglacial polythermal conditions etc., as

well as continental-scale ice-sheet modelling and projections for future sea level. It is currently

composed of 1 academic, 2 invited researchers, 2 postdocs and 7 PhDs.


Your Profile

The candidate will have a PhD in geosciences, climate science, environmental sciences,

geography, oceanography, marine sciences, physics (or related fields). He/she will

have strong numerical skills and extensive experience in numerical modelling, and will be

author of publications in top-ranked international journals. We are looking for candidates who

can demonstrate excellent communication skills, experience in working as part of a research

project, and proven ability to work independently with the ability to take the initiative, develop

research methodologies and methods of data analysis. Eligible applicants must not have

resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in Belgium for more than 12

months during the 3 years preceding the appointment.


Applications should be sent by email to [hidden email] and [hidden email]. It

should include:

a short cover letter specifying which position(s) the candidate is applying to

a short CV, including a list of publications

contact details of two referees

The deadline for application is 1 November 2019, but the positions will remain open till


The net amount of the fellowship will be ~€ 2450/month (minimum, exact salary depends on

experience). Further benefits are:

EU Citizens and citizens from countries that have a bilateral social security agreement

with Belgium: social security coverage including medical insurance, unemployment

benefit, pension, maternity leave and child benefit.

Non-EU Citizens from countries that have no bilateral social security agreement with

Belgium: social security coverage including medical insurance, maternity leave and

child benefit.

Insurance against accidents in the workplace.

Tax exemption.

Low-cost private hospitalization insurance.

On-site services at the ULB: medical centre, university hospital, sports centre,

subsidized restaurants, cultural centre, childcare, holiday camps for children, etc.

For informal enquiries please contact Prof. Sandra Arndt ([hidden email]) and Prof. Frank

Pattyn ([hidden email] ).




Frank Pattyn
Professor - Head of Department

T : +32 (0)2 650 2846
T : +32 (0)485 364495
[hidden email]
Université libre de Bruxelles – Faculté des Sciences
Laboratoire de Glaciologie
Department Geosciences, Environment, Society

Av. F.D. Roosevelt 50, CP 160/03, B-1050 Brussels, Belgium
Office: Av. A. Depage 30, B-1050 Brussels, Room DC4.118 - 



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