Project 1: Developing and testing Dynamic Vegetation Models to simulate impacts of climate change

Climate change is predicted to cause large-scale shifts in Southern African vegetation patterns. Dynamic Vegetation Models (DVMs) are computer-based models used to simulate changes in vegetation and the associated carbon cycle. The EMSAfrica consortium is developing improved DVMs for savanna ecosystems by including components such as soil carbon dynamics and the impact of grazing. The main focus of this PhD project will be in the assessment and improvement of the vegetation models aDGVM2 and/or LPJ-GUESS by using additional input variables, developing additional model functions (e.g. for land use types, in particular grazing), as well as remote sensing, carbon flux and experimental ecophysiological data for model calibration and evaluation. The candidate will be working together with the vegetation modelling team, the team focussing on the biosphere-atmosphere exchange of CO2 and energy, and the remote sensing team.  In addition to model testing and improvement, the aim is to use the DVMs to create  future scenarios for Southern Africa using different Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs), i.e. future greenhouse gas trajectories. Taking part in further ecophysiology field campaigns in South Africa may be possible.


  • Master’s degree in biology, ecology, environmental science, geography, computer science, physics, mathematics or related fields
  • Excellent skills in computer programming (C, C++, C#, R), unix/linux and high performance computing are essential
  • Knowledge of vegetation processes and ecosystem ecology
  • Team spirit, flexibility, and ability to work independently
  • Scientific curiosity and willingness to work on a doctoral thesis
  • Full written and verbal fluency in English
  • Strong enthusiasm and interest in conducting an interdisciplinary project involving different scientific approaches and cross-institution collaborations


Host institutes: Goethe University Frankfurt, Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (Frankfurt), Thünen Institute for Climate Smart Agriculture (Braunschweig), Germany

Supervision: Prof. Dr. Thomas Hickler (JWGU), Dr. Simon Scheiter (SBiK-F), Dr. Christian Brümmer (TI-AK)

Contact: Prof. Dr. Thomas Hickler,