The Laboratory of Hydraulics, Hydrology and Glaciology (VAW), in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering at ETH Zurich, is seeking a dynamic and motivated doctoral student for a project on river habitat modeling at the meso scale.
Doctoral position on “River mesohabitat modeling”
In many environmental studies of rivers, the understanding and prediction of bio-physical interactions processes is becoming a key element to be increasingly considered when planning and implementing river restoration projects. Traditional habitat models for rivers work at the microhabitat scale, referring to a single point (or computational cell), which is evaluated in terms of habitat suitability due to its local hydraulic and substrate conditions. Environmental conditions around organisms, not only at the location where they are observed, are known to be key factors affecting habitat use. In this light the mesohabitat scale has been increasingly used to model the ecological responses of biotic communities to hydromorphological alterations. Despite recent advancements, mesohabitat modeling is still in its infancy and the overarching goal of this doctoral research is to further explore and implement its potential. The 4-years project will be mainly focused on the development and implementation of the mesohabitat model. It will also integrate numerical modeling with the in-house developed software BASEMENT (http://www.basement.ethz.ch/), field data collection, analysis of habitat time series and the application of suitable distribution models for target biological species. The four specific research objectives are to: (1) identify mesohabitats and their dynamics from the output of a two-dimensional, shallow-water-Exner numerical model using an “unsupervised” (algorithm-driven) methodology (using for example clustering analysis); (2) include biotic interactions in species distribution models, specifically analyzing both aquatic/aquatic and aquatic/riparian biotic interactions; (3) evaluate habitat availability at the meso-scale for both aquatic and riparian species; (4) define environmental standards for larger stretches at ecologically relevant spatial scale. Case studies in river with different morphologies and rates of morphological changes will be preferably chosen among sites already subject to field investigation in Switzerland. A four-months secondment to Polytechnic University of Turin will focus on the development of new biological models for species of interest in the Alpine region.
The successful candidate will have a strong engineering background, skills in coding (e.g. C++ FORTRAN, Python, MATLAB) and a desire to work at a modeling level at the interface between hydraulics and ecology. Fluent spoken and written English, as well as good communication skills are required. The project is part of an interdisciplinary Swiss research project and will be jointly supervised by Dr. Annunziato Siviglia and Prof. Dr. Robert Boes.