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Reconstructing environmental change - Belgium  

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Posted on : 24 June 2017

Project Description

  • The role of human activities in past environmental changes, e.g. vegetation shifts and soil degradation, is all too often assumed to be simple and direct but recent research shows that the relationship is far more complex. 
  • The island of Madagascar is a textbook example where the role of human disturbance versus natural variations in environmental change is poorly understood. 
  • Parts of the island are characterized by extreme
  • erosion features , and the grassland-dominated landscape in the central and western region is often assumed to result from human interference, even though several lines of evidence caution against this view. 
  • Yet, until present our understanding of this landscape is insufficient to fully disentangle the role of different drivers in its development. 
  • In the overarching project, we aim to 
    • (i) test a novel comprehensive hypothesis explaining the initial phases of lavaka formation using a combination of high-resolution field data and modelling, 
    • (ii) use a suite of geochemical proxies to characterise surface and lavaka-derived sediments and associated organic carbon (C),
    •  (iii) quantify and characterize sediment and C yields from contrasting catchments in the Lake Alaotra region, and 
    • (iv) use geochemical and pollen records in Lake Alaotra sediment cores to reconstruct vegetation changes and the role of lavaka in sediment delivery in this landscape. By doing so we aim to clarify how humans and natural drivers have combined to shape the environmental history of Madagascar. 
  • The candidate for this vacancy is expected to contribute in particular to aspects (ii), (iii), and (iv) - in close collaboration with other team members. 

  •  You are truly interested in science: you want to understand how things work and are willing to go at great lengths to find out.
  •  You have had a good background in environmental sciences (geology, geography, bioscience engineering, biology, ...) 
  •  Knowledge of geochemical cycles and carbon processes is a plus
  •  You are able and willing to perform extended periods of fieldwork under relatively basic conditions
  • Extensive lab work (elemental and stable isotope analyses, ..) will be required - you are expected to learn how to operate and maintain state-of-the-art equipment independently.
  •  You are resourceful: you can accept that in a scientific projects things go wrong and are willing to spend energy and creativity to solve these issues, both in the field and behind a computer.
  •  You are willing to take the responsibility for your own project: of course this also entitles you to develop new initiatives
  • yourself that may take the project in new directions.

We are ideally looking for a PhD student (in which case a 4 y PhD scholarship of ~1850 €/month will be offered), or an early-career postdoc.