Forest Ecology Research Group



PhD position: Plant trait variability of boreal forest along a latitudinal climate and permafrost gradient

We are looking for a highly motivated individual for a PhD position focusing on changes in plant functional traits along a latitudinal climate and permafrost gradient in the Canadian boreal zone. The position is located in the Département de géographie at Université de Montréal or in the Department of Biology at Wilfrid Laurier University, and could begin as early as January 2017.  Funding includes a stipend for the graduate student, and travel and field expenses.  Students will be expected to apply for external funding sources.

The project focuses on a better understanding of plant trait variability and plasticity under the influence of rapidly changing environmental conditions across boreal landscapes. The study area consists of a latitudinal permafrost gradient (from no permafrost, over isolated, sporadic and discontinuous, to continuous permafrost) spanning from the southern- to the northern edge of the boreal forest ecozone in northwestern Canada, and includes research sites in Saskatchewan, British Columbia, and Northwest Territories. Permafrost along the southern edge of its distribution undergoes dramatic changes in hydrological regimes due to rapid permafrost thaw. These changes lead to diverging plant hydraulic strategies; trees located in the well-drained permafrost peat plateaus undergo water stress, while trees located on the plateau edges reduce/cease their functioning due to waterlogging in response to surface subsidence as a result of permafrost thaw. The project aims to expand on ongoing research along this gradient with particular focus on across- and within site variability of plant hydraulic traits. More specifically, the PhD candidate will conduct a suite of field measurements geared towards a better understanding of plant water fluxes and water use. This includes, but it is not limited to, sap flux density measurements, stem water potential measurements, tree stem dynamics measurements, foliar functional trait measurement, and isotope analyses).

Ideal applicant for the PhD position should have

  • a strong quantitative and technical background obtained through a Master’s or Diploma degree in ecology, biogeosciences, environmental science, etc.;
  • previous exposure to some aspects of the project (e.g., high latitude ecosystems/ecohydrology /biogeochemistry);
  • (some) wilderness outdoor experience as the project requires frequent traveling to and extended stays at the sites;
  • the ability to work independently and effectively as part of a team setting consisting of researchers from various Canadian universities (Wilfrid Laurier University, Université de Montrèal, McGill University, University of Guelph);
  • proficiency in English (the Université de Montréal is a francophone research university, so knowledge of French is of great advantage but not mandatory).

Please email questions regarding the PhD position/admission process and application packages consisting of cover letter, curriculum vitae, an English writing sample (ideally a publication), copies of academic credentials, and names and contact information of at least two referees to:

jbaltzer *at*

oliver.sonnentag *at*

christoforos.pappas *at*

The review of applications will commence immediately until the position is filled.


The Forest Ecology Research Group is always looking for strong candidates for graduate and post graduate research. Please send CV and cover letter detailing research interests and experience to Dr. Jennifer Baltzer

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