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
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.
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
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.
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.
• 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
• 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] ).
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Nutti_PDRA.pdf (466K) Download Attachment
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