The Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry (MPI-BGC) in Jena is dedicated to interdisciplinary fundamental research in the field of Earth system sciences with a focus on climate and ecosystems. The internationally renowned institute, which currently employs around 230 people, will celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2022. Jena is known for high-tech industry, internationally renowned research institutions and a modern university, but it also has a beautiful natural setting in the green Saale valley with steep limestone slopes. The city of Jena has an active student scene and a diverse cultural life. For the department of Biogeochemical Processes we are inviting applications for a PhD position on the process understanding of dryland vegetation dynamics (m/f/d) in full time, three years, extension possible.

Background and position description: Drylands cover ~45% of global land area, are home to ~40% of the global population and harbor more than 20% of global biodiversity. However, drylands face significant challenges from climate change (e.g. changes in temperature and precipitation patterns) and intensified anthropogenic activities and disturbance (e.g. over-grazing) leading to land degradation and desertification.

Despite the severe consequences, our ability to accurately assess and predict dryland vegetation dynamics remains uncertain, largely due to lack of understanding of the biological and ecological mechanisms/processes driving the spatial-temporal dynamics of dryland vegetation under climate change and land use changes.

In the framework of a highly collaborative and interdisciplinary project between the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry (MPI-BGC) and Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS-RCEES and CAS-ITP), the proposed projects provide a unique platform for the candidates to integrate knowledge and expertise across disciplines to improve our process understanding of seasonal to interannual changes in dryland carbon-water relations under global environmental change, such as rising CO2, increasing aridity and temperature, or nitrogen deposition.

Your tasks

  • Participate in joint field campaigns and collect field data and plant/soil samples at selected sites across gradients of environmental conditions.
  • Coordinate analysis of plant functional traits to identify the key processes that determine plant carbon-water relations in a changing environment.
  • Integrate data collected in the Dryland project and the existing databases (TRY and FLUXNET) to investigate plant carbon-water relations across scales.

Your profile

  • Master’s degree in ecology, biology, geography, biogeochemistry, or environmental sciences
  • Experience in field/greenhouse experiments and/or laboratory analysis on plant ecology
  • Knowledge on plant ecology/ecophysiology, experience or interest in stable isotopes (e.g., 13C, 18O, 15N) and Radiocarbon would be very advantageous
  • Good English written and communication skills.

Our offer

  • Work in the attractive international environment of an interdisciplinary research institute of the Max Planck Society as well as in a friendly and team-oriented working environment.
  • Participation in a strongly interdisciplinary research project, with close collaborations with the MPI-BGC Signals Department (Prof. Sönke Zaehle, Terrestrial Biosphere Modelling), CAS-RCEES (Prof. Bojie Fu, ecosystem service assessment), and CAS-ITP (Prof. Shilong Piao, eddy-covariance fluxes and remote sensing), as well as other MPI and CAS institutions.
  • Top-level research facilities and infrastructure, and excellent technical support.

Part-time work is generally possible. The position will be evaluated and graded following the collective agreement according to TVöD Bund; in addition, we will provide a pension plan based on the public service (VBL).

The Max Planck Society (MPS) strives for gender equality and diversity. The MPS aims to increase the proportion of women in areas where they are underrepresented. Women are therefore explicitly encouraged to apply. We welcome applications from all fields. The Max Planck Society has set itself the goal of employing more severely disabled people. Applications from severely disabled persons are expressly encouraged.

Your application

Please do not hesitate to contact Dr. Jianbei Huang ( and/or Prof. Susan Trumbore, PhD ( for details about the position. Are you interested? Please send us your application with cover letter, curriculum vitae as well a s names and contact information of two references summarised in a PDF file (max. 10 MB) by e-mail to or to the Max-Planck-Institut für Biogeochemie
Personalbüro: Kennwort “37/2022”
Hans-Knöll-Straße 10
07745 Jena

by September 9, 2022, quoting the reference number 37/2022. We ask that you do not use application folders, but only submit copies, as your documents will be destroyed in accordance with data protection regulations after the application process has been completed. We look forward to receiving your application!

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