PhD project: Reconstruction of subsurface flow networks in the critical zone using natural organic tracers Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry and Friedrich Schiller University Jena • International Max Planck Research School for Global Biogeochemical Cycles (IMPRS) • Jena

Germany Universities


January 31, 2022


Open Positions 1

Time Span as soon as possible for 3 years Application Deadline 31 Jan 2022 Financing yes Type of Position

  • PhD - Individual Supervisor
  • PhD - Doctoral Programme
  • Field of Research

  • Mathematics / Natural Sciences
  • Veterinary Medicine/Agriculture, Forestry, and Nutritional Sciences
  • Subjects Global Biogeochemical Cycles Description In cooperation with the Friedrich Schiller University Jena, the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry houses a unique and flexible research program that grants German and foreign students a broad selection of learning opportunities while still maintaining a research focus. The International Max Planck Research School for Global Biogeochemical Cycles (IMPRS-gBGC) offers a PhD program specializing in global biogeochemistry and related Earth system sciences.

    The PhD program

    Successful applicants will be part of the IMPRS-gBGC. Research focuses on the distribution of elements essential to life and the climate among the components of the Earth system and the interaction between biosphere, atmosphere, lithosphere, land and oceans.

    Besides doing research for their PhD project, PhD candidates also benefit from a three-month external research visit, specialised courses in e.g. statistics, Earth observation, modelling and analytical techniques, as well as in soft skills. The IMPRS-gBGC is thus an excellent starting platform for a successful career in a field related to global biogeochemical cycles and Earth system science.

    Project description

    Dissolved Organic Matter (DOM) resembles a vast variety of soluble and colloidal organic substances comprising among others microbial products, root exudates, microbiota, lysis products and humified materials released from the soil organic matter pool. Major source of DOM are the forest floor and the top-soil horizons. While many compounds within the organic matter pool are so far unknown, molecular organic signatures relating to type of plants or plant societies as well as land use and land management have been identified. As part of theses substances are persistent, they are prone to transport with the fluids phases. If a set of components are identified that can be uniquely related to the location or origin and to the type of vegetation/land uses, such a collection of substances could serve as “natural tracers” for the reconstruction of the subsurface network of flow paths in hydrogeologic settings with fracture type networks in the vadose and the saturated zone. To achieve this goal, chemical analytical methods are required that allow for the simultaneous detection of a variety of substances in the aqueous phase. Among these analytical methods comprehensive Tandem-Gas-Chromatography (GCxGC) seems to be promising, as it is compound specific, sensitive rather rapid, and requires only less sample pretreatment. GCxGC characterizes thermostable aqueous organic mixtures by separating compounds according to their volatility and polarity. Such a dual separation system increases the peak capacity and reduces coelution. Moreover, it produces 2D-chromatograms (“contour plots”) that allow to identify the composition of an aqueous sample using advanced image analysis tools. Within the project, comprehensive GCxGC combined with image analysis is used to analyze and evaluate spatially and temporally resolved seepage and water samples from the different sampling locations and sampling depths at the Hainich Critical Zone exploratory. Based on the spatio-temporal suite of 2D chromatograms, the objective is to identify natural substances that may serves as suite the subsurface tracers for the reconstruction of transport pathways.


    Applications to the IMPRS-gBGC are open to well-motivated and highly-qualified students from all countries. Prerequisites for this PhD project are

    - A Master's degree in bio(geo)chemistry, environmental science, geosciences, or chemistry - Experience in spectroscopic techniques like GC, HPLC and FTIR - Excellent oral and written communication skills in English

    The Max Planck Society (MPS) strives for gender equality and diversity. The MPS seeks to increase the number of women in those areas where they are underrepresented and therefore explicitly encourages women to apply. The MPS is committed to increasing the number of individuals with disabilities in its workforce and therefore encourages applications from such qualified individuals.

    More information about the IMPRS-gBGC + application: https: // www.

    Working Language

  • English
  • German
  • Language of Dissertation

  • English
  • German
  • Required Documents

  • CV
  • Reports, certificates
  • Letter of Motivation
  • Others : two references
  • More Information https:// www. imprs-