[ES_JOBS_NET] PhD opportunity in permafrost research

Erika Marín-Spiotta marinspiotta at wisc.edu
Tue Nov 29 10:11:01 MST 2016

PhD Research Opportunities: Polar Bear Provincial Park, Ontario

As the third largest wetland in the world, the Hudson Bay Lowlands (HBL)
provides many ecological values such as climate regulation through carbon
stored as peat and water quantity and quality to sustain the well-being and
cultural values of the region’s Indigenous people. Understanding and
projecting future contributions of permafrost to ecological and cultural
values has become a high science priority in Ontario. Unfortunately, lack
of adequate data on current and future permafrost conditions impedes land
use planning in the permafrost-dominated regions of the HBL.

The HBL landscape is being exposed to rapidly warming temperatures and
permafrost responses are expected to alter the region’s hydrology, carbon
cycles, and heavy metal mobilization dynamics. By 2100, permafrost losses
of 16 to 67% are predicted, a range that needs to be narrowed to reduce
uncertainty. Active layer thickness in the HBL also varies (from <50 to
>150 cm) and is expected to change. Much of the water flow, carbon cycling,
and heavy metal mobilization occurs in the active layer, and thus may
intensify as the permafrost thaws.

The PhD student will be based at the Cold Regions Research Centre at
Wilfrid Laurier University in collaboration with the Ontario Ministry of
Natural Resources and Forestry. The student will develop a research project
to increase understanding of active layer freeze/thaw cycles in Polar Bear
Provincial Park, Ontario, using a combination of field and laboratory
methods, and will use the resulting information to explain these cycles at
watershed scale. The individual will also gain experience in research site
establishment by participating with science teams composed of government,
academic, and First Nations representatives who will install boreholes,
carbon flux towers, stream gauges, and other infrastructure at the site.
These interactions will provide the student with excellent networking
opportunities across several institutions.

This PhD research project fills a critical knowledge gap impeding the
overall goal of sustaining future hydrology, carbon stores, and water
quantity and quality as climate change and land use pressures intensify in
the HBL. It will also establish a necessary foundation for developing data
sets, modeling applications, and mapping products that can be used to
inform policy and provide advice and guidance to natural resource
practitioners, First Nation communities, and policymakers as climate
science is incorporated into planning and decision making.

Contact: Dr. Jim McLaughlin, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and
Forestry at jim.mclaughlin at ontario.ca for further details.

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