Project 2: Carbon dioxide and energy exchange in natural and managed savanna ecosystems

Semi-arid ecosystems are affected by two different kinds of disturbances. Human-induced disturbances are related to e.g. land conversion into agriculture or the harvesting of woody biomass. Climate change causes a more indirect disturbance through changing temperature and precipitation patterns, and a higher probability of extreme weather events. To investigate the effect of these two types of disturbances on the biosphere-atmosphere exchange of carbon dioxide and energy, the project consortium has set up three paired flux tower clusters along an aridity gradient in South Africa. The main aims of this PhD project are (1) to secure flux tower operation together with a team of technicians at selected sites in South Africa, including data quality control and assurance, (2) to process and analyse flux tower data with regard to their controlling biophysical factors, (3) to calculate carbon and energy balances, and (4) to integrate the results into broader spatial and temporal scales through collaboration with the remote sensing and modelling groups of the consortium.


  • Master’s degree in Meteorology, Physics, Ecology, Biology, Geography, Agricultural, Environmental or Soil Science or in a related field
  • Profound knowledge in biogeochemical cycles and/or micrometeorology
  • Experience in common computer software and in processing large data sets (for example in R, Python, MATLAB, or similar)
  • Motivation and willingness to conduct field work
  • Proficiency in multivariate statistics is beneficial
  • Knowledge of savanna ecosystem functioning or greenhouse gas fluxes between biosphere and atmosphere is beneficial
  • Team spirit, flexibility, and ability to work independently
  • Scientific curiosity and commitment to complete a doctoral thesis
  • Full written and verbal fluency in English, some knowledge or at least willingness to learn German


Host institute: Thünen Institute for Climate Smart Agriculture (Braunschweig), Germany

Supervision: Dr. Christian Brümmer (TI-AK) and Dr. Mari Bieri (TI-AK)

Contact: Dr. Mari Bieri,