PhD fellowship in “Opportunities for reducing agricultural greenhouse gas emissions by rewetting farmed peat soils (RePeat)” at the Dept. Geosciences & Natural Resource Management, University of Copenhagen

A 3-year PhD fellowship is available in the Section for Forest, Nature & Biomass, Dept. Geosciences & Natural Resource Management University of Copenhagen, Denmark, with an expected start 1 Fabruary 2020, or shortly thereafter.

The fellowship is funded by the Danish Agricultural Agency as part of their climate research programme aimed at providing public and private stakeholders with tools to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases from the agricultural sector.

About RePeat

Farmed organic soils are responsible for up to 32% of the total emission of greenhouse gases (GHG) from the agricultural sector in Denmark, primarily as CO2. Extensification or complete stop of farming on these areas have been identified as being effective means to reduce the climate footprint of the agricultural sector. For this practice to work it is essential to increase the ground water level, which effectively stops the production of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the soil. However, the increased wetness or complete saturation of the organic soil will also create ideal conditions for production of the much more potent greenhouse gases, nitrous oxide and methane. There are only few studies of the total greenhouse gas balance, including CO2, N2O and CH4, for organic soils in Denmark where agricultural practices have stopped or been extensified and none that includes the long term development of the area over time. For these reasons the effect of this practice on reducing the climate footprint is riddled with great uncertainty.

In RePeat we will assess the change in exchange of all three greenhouse gases in a range of land use on organic soils. We will measure the total annual greenhouse gas budget on location with different types of extensification, including paludiculture of different crop types with varying ground water levels (WP1) and natural regeneration of vegetation over several years after extensification (WP2). These data will combined with data on soil and biogeochemistry (WP3).

The overall goal with RePeat is to increase our data and knowledge on exchange of greenhouse gases for different practice and management practices of organic soils. These data will be used to improve emission factors (WP4) for agricultural areas as they are based on the dynamic development of the greenhouse gas exchange over the growing season as a function of soil hydrology, biogeochemistry and vegetation.

About your project

Your primary objective is to investigate how the GHG budget develops over time on locations with natural regeneration of vegetation of abandoned peat soils and relate this to soil hydrology, biogeochemistry and growth of vegetation. This is related to WP2 of RePeat. Your project will use a variety of sampling techniques for GHGs, soil and vegetation. Your primary task is to measure the fluxes of the GHG’s; CO2, CH4 and N2O, from peat soils at different stages (ages) of natural regeneration of vegetation after agricultural practices have stopped. To support these measurements it is necessary to collect a range of hydrological and biogeochemical properties of the soil as well as quantify the pools of carbon, nitrogen and phosphor. Lastly, you will assess the aboveground biomass of vegetation across the regeneration gradient. For the measurements of GHG you will combine manual chamber measurements with a fully automated GHG chamber system, SkyLine2D. You will also use basic soil hydrological methods to estimate the soil water content and groundwater level as well as extract soil solution to quantify the plant and microbial available nutrients. Collectively, these methods enables to derive fundamental relations between GHG fluxes, soil hydrology and biogeochemistry which are needed for later model development.

The position is available for a 3-year period and your key responsibilities as a PhD student at University of Copenhagen are:

  • To manage and carry through your research project according to the above research tasks
  • Attend PhD courses (in total of 30 ECTS)
  • Write scientific articles and your PhD thesis
  • Disseminate your research at the institute and conferences
  • To conduct secondments at foreign research institution
  • Work for the department

As a PhD student you will be part of our research group and your principal supervisor is Associate Professor, Jesper Riis Christiansen, Forest, Nature and Biomass Section, University of Copenhagen,, +45 35336942. The PhD will be co-supervised by Associate Professor Klaus Steenberg Larsen ( and Professor Per Gundersen ( (same affiliation as principal supervisor).

Requirements for applying for the position

Applicants must hold an MSc degree or equivalent in the field of environmental sciences, biology, geography or a related discipline.

It is highly recommended that applicants have prior experience with measurements of greenhouse gas fluxes between ecosystem and atmosphere. Applicants must be fluent in both written and spoken English to a level sufficiently high for communication and dissementation at an academic level.

About the host institute

University of Copenhagen is the largest research and education institution in Denmark. Internationally, the University is highly competitive and is ranked as one of the leading universities globally with the most recent Shanghai rankings placed the University as No. 30 worldwide and No. 6 in Europe. This is also reflected by its membership of the prestigious International Alliance of Research Universities.

Your work place will be the Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management(IGN) which conducts research and education on the past, present and future physical, chemical and biological environments of the Earth and their interactions with societal and human systems to provide graduates and research in support of sustainable future solutions for society. The department has strong experience in interdisciplinary collaboration within and beyond the department. You will further be affiliated with the Section for Forest, Nature and Biomass at IGN and be a member of the Biogeochemistry research group in this section. The research group focuses on the fundamental research of soil biogeochemistry in natural ecosystems; forests, wetlands, heathlands and grasslands etc., and through this seeking to understand how wider environmental and societal changes, such as land use and climate change, impact the flows and exchange of water, greenhouse gases, carbon and nitrogen.   

IGN has 400 employees and 25 full professors. UCPH has a strong commitment to its doctoral programme and IGN recruits over 35 new PhDs annually, about half being foreign students, which ensures a multicultural, international environment. IGN has a number of highly instrumented large-scale field experiments and monitoring stations. Jesper Riis Christiansen, the principal supervisor of the PhD, is an expert in ecosystem hydrology and biogeochemistry and the associated greenhouse gas fluxes.

Terms of employment

The terms of employment and salary are in accordance with Memorandum on Job Structure for Academic Staff. Terms of appointment and payment accord to the agreement between the Ministry of Finance and The Danish Confederation of Professional Associations on Academics in the State, and according to the rules and regulations laid down by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Action European Training Network.

The PhD study must be completed in accordance with The Ministerial Order on the PhD programme (2013) and the University’s rules on achieving the degree. Salary, pension and terms of employment are in accordance with the agreement between the Ministry of Finance and The Danish Confederation of Professional Associations on Academics in the State. Depending on seniority, the monthly salary begins around 27.135 DKK /approx. 3.633 EUR (October 2019-level) plus pension.

More information

For further information about the position, applicants should contact principal supervisor Associate Professor, Jesper Riis Christiansen, Forest, Nature and Biomass Section, University of Copenhagen,, +45 3533 6942.


Your application must be submitted electronically by clicking ‘Apply now’ below. The application must include the following documents in PDF format:

1. Motivated letter of application (max. one page)

2. A short scientific introduction to the topic and research of this PhD project, including your suggestions for methods (max. one page, cited literature excluded)

3. CV incl. education, experience, language skills and other skills relevant for the position

4. Master of Science diploma and transcript of records. If not completed, a certified/signed copy of a recent transcript of records or a written statement from the institution or supervisor will do

5. Publication list (if relevant)

The University wishes our staff to reflect the diversity of society and thus welcomes applications from all qualified candidates regardless of personal background.

The closing date for applications is: 27 November 2019.

We reserve the right not to consider material received after the deadline, and not to consider applications or letters of recommendation that do not live up to the above-mentioned requirements.

The further process

After the expiry of the deadline for applications, the authorized recruitment manager selects applicants for assessment on the advice of the hiring committee. All applicants are then immediately notified whether their application has been passed for assessment by an unbiased assessor.

The assessor makes a non-prioritized assessment of the academic qualifications and experience with respect to the above-mentioned area of research, techniques, skills and other requirements listed in the advertisement.

Once the assessment work has been completed each applicant has the opportunity to comment on the part of the assessment that relates to the applicant him/herself.

You can read about the recruitment process at   

The applicant will be assessed according to the Ministerial Order no. 242 of 13 March 2012 on the Appointment of Academic Staff at Universities.




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Ansøgningsfrist: 27-11-2019
Ansættelsesdato: 01-02-2020
Arbejdstid: Fuldtid
Afdeling/Sted: Institut for Geovidenskab og Naturforveltning

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