PhD Research Fellow in Ecology - Alpine Greening

Deadline: 30.09.2021

University of South-Eastern Norway

The University of South-Eastern Norway, USN, is one of Norway’s largest higher education institutions, with around 18,000 students and 1,900 employees across eight different campuses.

We offer studies, research and knowledge dissemination, all targeting various professions and working life and with a high level of quality internationally. Our goal as a University is to create value both for the individual student and for business and commerce, the public sector and society in general. We achieve this by utilising the best tools we have: education and research.

USN is a University with a strong social commitment where studies and working life are integrated. At USN, we focus on practice-relevant, profession-oriented and applied research and education.

The students shall benefit from innovative educational methods and challenging studies closely associated with society's requirements and needs.

They will learn how to adapt to a society and working life that is constantly changing. The University shall meet major social challenges with knowledge and expertise, helping to promote practical solutions, structural changes and new ways of thinking. USN’s academic activities shall be embodied by a clear dedication to the UN’s sustainable development goals. The University aims to realise this main profile in close cooperation with society and working life.

For more information on USN, please go to www.usn.no

The Faculty of Technology, Natural Sciences and Maritime Sciences have a vacancy for a position as PhD Research Fellow in Ecology - Alpine Greening

About the position

The Faculty of Technology, Natural Sciences and Maritime Sciences has a vacancy for a 100% position as PhD Research Fellow in Ecology from 01.01.2022, or as soon as possible after this date.

The position is located at the Department of Natural Sciences and Environmental Health, and the immediate superior is the Head of the Department. The main work place is in Bø, in the Municipality of Midt-Telemark, Vestfold and Telemark County, Norway. Bø is located in beautiful surroundings and within to hours travel from Oslo.

The appointment is for a duration of three years without teaching requirement. A four-year duration of appointment with a 25 % teaching requirement can be considered, depending on the needs of the Department and the competence of the applicant. There is a premise for employment that the PhD Research Fellow is enrolled in USN’s internationally oriented PhD Program in Ecology within three months of accession in the position.

About the PhD-project “Alpine Greening: Driving forces of enhanced shrub growth/expansion and its feedbacks to the climate system”

For arctic-alpine regions, a prevalent greening trend has been observed based on satellite data, meanwhile identified by the IPCC as one of the clearest examples of the terrestrial impacts of climate change. It results from the expansion and accelerated growth of woody shrub species and yields a variety of feedbacks on ecosystems and the services they provide, as well as the global climate system.

To understand how shrubs respond to climatic variability, dendroecology has proven useful as it provides long-term and annually resolved growth records, which could then be related to climate records. Hence, a positive correlation between temperatures and shrub growth is well established. Despite the well-known general climatic effects on shrub growth, the underlying causes and future dynamics of the greening are more complex, variable and scale dependent than previously thought, so that especially landscape-scale patterns and drivers of shrub expansion as well as its repercussions on the local climate remain poorly understood.

By bringing together both plot-based dendroecological and climatological approaches with high-resolution remote sensing and modelling, this PhD-project explicitly addresses the lack of knowledge about the fine-scaled heterogeneity in shrub growth, its driving forces, and its climatological repercussions across alpine landscapes in Norway.

As such, it aims specifically at

  • downscaling of meteorological standard observations,
  • quantifying the effects of shrubification on the energy balance and near-surface temperatures,
  • disentangling the driving forces behind the observed shrubification, and
  • synthesizing the tight interactions among microclimate and shrubification.

Publication of research results in international peer-reviewed journals is expected.

The supervisors will be Assoc. Prof. Roland Pape, Prof. Hans Renssen, Assoc. Prof. Stefanie Reinhardt (all from USN) and Prof. Jörg Löffler from the University of Bonn. The applicant will be part of the research group “Climate Change and Alpine Ecosystems” at USN.


Applicants to the PhD position must have a Master’s degree (120 ECTS) or equivalent higher education qualification in Environmental Sciences, Biology, Ecology or related disciplines.

The degree must be accomplished before the application deadline.

It is a requirement that the successful candidate is granted admission to the USN’s PhD Program in Ecology within three months of accession in the position. For admission to the Program, the candidate must have a grade B (weighted average) or higher in his/her Master’s degree or equivalent higher education.

The successful candidate should have:

  • A good understanding of ecological processes and their interrelation, preferably within arctic-alpine environments.
  • A strong background in statistics, especially the ability to handle and analyze large spatio-temporal data.
  • Good knowledge of the R environment, preferably also of geographical information systems and, ideally, remote sensing applications.
  • The ability to work independently and at the same time have the motivation to share knowledge and take part in team work.
  • The willingness to cooperate with other PhD students and postdoctoral researchers in an international environment is essential. The candidate should be willing to spend a certain amount of the PhD period for lab work at the University of Bonn (Germany).
  • The ability and willingness to conduct long and strenous days of field work and to spend a considerable amount of time with meticulous dendroecological lab work.
  • Good oral and written English skills.

An ideal candidate should be creative, analytical, highly self-motivated, and possess good collaborative skills. Demonstrable skills in the publication of scientific papers is advantageous. Experience from previous work in the fields of dendroecology and/or microclimatology is an asset.

The staff at the faculty works within subject teams to a large extent, personal suitability for the position will be emphasized.

We offer

  • A stimulating and growing research environment, with good opportunities to develop your career and your academic skills
  • A good social environment
  • Attractive welfare benefits in the State Pension Plan
  • Opportunity for physical activities within working hours


PhD Research Fellow (code 1017): NOK 491 200 a year. Further promotion will be based on time served in the position.

A statutory contribution to the state pension plan will be deducted from the employee’s salary.

Other information

The Academic Appointments Board for PhD Research Fellowships is responsible for the appointment. An expert assessment of applicants will be carried out. The candidates deemed best qualified will be invited to an interview.

The person appointed must comply with the laws, regulations and agreements that apply at any given time to the post. Please note that approved work permit is a prerequisite for the employment.

According to its human resources policy, the University of South-Eastern Norway targets a balanced gender composition and aims to recruit persons with a background as an immigrant.

The University contributes to the Inkluderingsdugnaden (a voluntary scheme to promote inclusion), and it is our aim that our employees, to the fullest extent possible, shall reflect the diversity of the general population. We therefore encourage qualified applicants with disabilities to apply for the post. The University will facilitate the workplace for employees with disabilities.

Pursuant to section 25, 2nd paragraph of the Freedom of Information Act, information on the applicant may be disclosed even if the applicant has requested not be included on the list of applicants. Applicants will be notified if such requests are not allowed.

Contact information

For more information about the position, please contact:

For questions regarding the recruitment process, please contact:

How to apply

The University of South-Eastern Norway makes use of online application management. Applicants to the post must register their application and CV with enclosures online via the Jobbnorge recruitment portal by clicking on the link on the right-hand side – “Søk stillingen” (Apply for the post).

The following documents shall be attached to the online application:

  • Transcripts and diplomas of Bachelor's and Master's Degrees (120 ECTS)
  • A letter of motivation
  • CV
  • Any scientific publications and a list of these
  • Three references (contact information)

Please note that all documents must be in a Scandinavian language or in English. Any translations must be certified.

The application will be assessed on the basis of the attached documentation as requested above. Each applicant is responsible for ensuring that the required documentation has been uploaded with the application deadline.

The University has been awarded a Charter & Code certificate by the European Commission, and is entitled to use the HR Excellence in Research (HRS4R) logo. The University is also a member of the EURAXESS network, which contributes to good working conditions for mobile researchers.

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