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Graduate Research Assistantships and Postdoctoral Fellowship in Biogeochemistry and Hydrology of Agroecosystems

Graduate & Postdoc
Expiration Date: 

The Montana Consortium for Research on Environmental Water Systems (CREWS) project is seeking applicants (one open Ph.D. research assistantship and one open Postdoctoral fellowship starting fall semester 2019) to join a large and diverse research team focused on biogeochemical and hydrological processes of agricultural systems in the Northern Great Plains. The research is particularly motivated by understanding the associated controls on the quality of water resources. Research will focus on the fate and transport of solutes influenced by agricultural amendments across spatial gradients, with goals that include characterizing reactive transport in soils, groundwater, and stream-riparian corridors within dryland cereal production and rangeland agroecosystems of central Montana. The positions are based at Montana State University, are funded until August of 2023, and provide an opportunity to work within a large interdisciplinary team of biogeochemists, physical chemists, materials scientists, social scientists, and hydrologists across multiple institutions. The project will combine field, laboratory, and modeling analyses, with an expectation of some extended visits to the field site throughout the duration of the study. Competency and enthusiasm for solute transport modeling and inferential modeling is preferred.

Successful applicants will join the Department of Land Resources and Environmental Sciences ( at Montana State University, and may also participate in related interdisciplinary communities such as the Montana Institute on Ecosystems ( Research assistantships provide competitive annual stipends and benefits, and students will be provided with opportunities to develop meaningful teaching and mentoring experience.

Our current vision for the specific activities of both open and filled positions on the team follows. More detail will be defined depending on the competencies and synergies of successful applicants:

Open PhD Research Assistantship (seeking applicants to start fall semester 2019): Develop the models and inferential optimization strategies necessary to infer ecosystem process from environmental signals generated by state-of-the art in situ sensors (e.g. dissolved oxygen, carbon dioxide, and nitrate). These models will be used to infer physical and metabolic processes affecting water quality in agroecosystems, and will also be used in parallel projects focused on the influences of mining and energy extraction on the quality of water resources.

Open Postdoctoral Fellowship (seeking applicants to start fall semester 2019): Lead reactive transport and/or inferential modeling efforts across soil-groundwater-stream continuum in agricultural and other human altered landscapes based on field data. Provide mentoring for GRA positions and integrate the results of GRA projects into broader conceptual and simulation modeling. Play a key role in the project-wide integration of conceptual models toward understanding the broader controls on water quality, including human management influences and related projects focused on the influences of mining and energy extraction on the quality of water resources.

Filled GRA position (for information regarding the full team): Investigate the reactive transport processes affecting fate of (1) nutrient and chemical amendments to rangeland and annual cropping systems soils, and (2) soil-derived salts mobilized during surface mining operations, with the goal of informing a landscape- or watershed-scale perspective of their influence on ground and surface water quality. Participate in stakeholder engagement to understand the role of human management decisions influencing water quality.

We expect to be reviewing applications and interviewing in late March into early April. For the postdoctoral position, an official job announcement and application interface through MSU human resources is pending, and interested parties will be forwarded the link to that application page when it is available. Interested applicants for both open positions should contact:

Dr. Stephanie Ewing

Soil Biogeochemistry


Dr. Robert Payn

Watershed Hydrology