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Research Associate (Critical Zone Science)

Lancaster Environment Centre
Salary:   £26,537 to £30,738
Closing Date:   Sunday 21 February 2016
Interview Date:   Friday 04 March 2016
Reference:  A1439

Lancaster University is a world-class university with an international reputation for excellence in teaching, scholarship and research. Lancaster is a UK top ten University and is consistently highly placed in all major league tables, in the top 1 percent of the world ranking. Lancaster Environment Centre is a large and multidisciplinary department and has an increasing portfolio of regional, national and international research partnerships that advance core disciplinary knowledge and address key societal issues. Lancaster’s environmental science was recently rated 5th in Europe and =23rd in the world.   The department offers a supportive environment for career development and mentoring of early career researchers.

This post is to provide research support, until 31 December 2018, for modelling and field experiments funded through the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) grant “Modelling and managing critical zone relationships between soil, water and ecosystem processes across the Loess Plateau”.  This is a result of a joint programme between NERC and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) to understand and seek ways to address the challenges faced for the delivery of China's ecosystems services in association with their agricultural production and urbanisation.

The project, led by Rothamsted Research, includes UK partners from Lancaster University and Leeds University, in addition to China partners from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Northwest A&F University.

The Loess Plateau of China covers an area 2.5 times the size of the UK (some 640,000 km2) in the upper and middle reaches of China's Yellow River and is renowned for having the most severe soil erosion in the world; deforestation, overgrazing and poor agricultural practice have resulted in degenerated ecosystems, desertification and unproductive agriculture in the region. To control severe soil erosion on the Loess Plateau, the Chinese government imposed a series of policies for fragile ecosystems, such as the 1999 state-funded "Grain-for-Green" project, which has resulted in significant land use changes. Related programmes have produced beneficial effects on soil erosion and water cycles. However, the impact of these changes in soil and water processes on related ecosystem services is unknown and demands further study. The proposed research will focus on three spatial scales: slope, watershed, and region. It uses a combination of: experiments to collect environmental, biological and agronomic data; remote sensing data; modelling approaches.  

The research associate based at Lancaster will primarily focus on numerical modelling soil water movement and nutrient transport in the deep unsaturated zone of the Loess Plateau.  The researcher will be involved with experiments at the Chinese field sites, the data from which will be used to develop plot-scale, and ultimately watershed-scale, models.  We anticipate extensive use of geophysical data (electrical resistivity, ground penetrating radar, etc.) to assist in plot-scale hydrological characterisation.

You should have a PhD, with a good understanding of soil water processes and research experience of using numerical models of unsaturated zone flow and transport processes.  Experience of working in agricultural environments would be an advantage. Experience of using geophysical techniques is desirable. You should also have good organizational skills, be able to co-ordinate field campaigns, work independently but also interact effectively in a multi-disciplinary team.  Excellent communication skills (report and paper writing; oral presentations) are also necessary.

Further details are available from Prof. Andrew Binley (

Expected start date for post: 1 April 2016.

We welcome applications from people in all diversity groups.

The closing date for this job opportunity has now passed, and applications are no longer being accepted for this position

Further details:

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