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PhD opportunity: Investigating Earth's surface properties and their evolution using optical and radar observations, University of Zurich

PhD - Investigating Earth's surface properties and their evolution using optical and radar observations

The announced PhD position is part of the new Remote Sensing of Environmental Changes group within the Remote Sensing Laboratories at the Department of Geography, University of Zurich.

Remote sensing is vital in documenting and monitoring environmental changes worldwide. Analyzing remote sensing data is complex, and finding solutions often requires custom-tailored algorithms. For what concerns environmental changes, most problems come with additional challenges, i.e., dealing with the inherent limitations of each sensor and platform and determining how to apply solutions at different scales.

The research group aims to address these challenges and to make an impact in quantifying, understanding, and mitigating environmental changes in the cryosphere, forestry, and geomorphology. To this end, we aim to address fundamental and methodological questions in remote sensing. Yet, several challenges exist, including managing the sheer volume and variety of geospatial data available from open and commercial sensors and across different spatial and temporal resolutions. Furthermore, the imminent launch of new satellite missions will open new research perspectives.

PhD project description

The PhD candidate will explore the potential of using remote sensing data from multiple sources and related applications in the field of cryosphere and forestry. The project aims to investigate surface properties, dynamics, and tracking changes over time by integrating multi-source remote sensing data. The project will rely on optical stereo images to derive elevation information and hyperspectral imagery from airborne and satellite observations to characterize the surface properties by analyzing hundreds of spectral bands. Additionally, radar satellite data from commercial and open-access missions will be processed and analyzed. The radar data analysis will include different approaches for surface change detection and surface displacement analysis. State-of-the-art algorithms will be applied, and new methods will be developed, considering local processing solutions and cloud computing infrastructures (e.g., Google Earth Engine or similar).

Your responsibilities

  • Developing and implementing research questions.

  • Investigation, selection and pre-processing of multi-source remote sensing data.

  • Explore the potential of multi-source remote sensing data such as:

  • Analyzing multi-spectral and hyperspectral imagery to investigate the surface properties over glacial, periglacial and forested areas.

  • Combining optical and radar imagery to investigate the surface properties over glacial, periglacial and forested areas.

  • Developing algorithms to deal with high spatial and temporal resolution radar and optical imagery.

  • Presentation of research results at conferences and publishing results in peer-reviewed journals.

  • Contribution to the teaching of remote sensing courses.

  • Close collaboration with research partners at the University of Zurich, Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research (SLF), Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL), and the German Aerospace Center (DLR).

Your profile

You have completed a M.Sc. degree in photogrammetry, remote sensing, computer vision, physical geography, earth systems science, physics, or related fields. A strong interest and possibly some experience in signal processing, radar data, digital image processing, and change detection analysis is expected.

Very good skills in processing and analyzing geospatial data and advanced programming and computational skills (e.g., Python) are required. You have very good written and spoken English and are willing to interact with an interdisciplinary science community. Knowing German is an additional asset, but not required.

What we offer

The team will be built on the values of collaboration, diversity, respect, initiative, and open science. The drivers of the research group are sharing experiences, ideas, and approaches, learning from each other, and returning what we have learned to the group and the community.

We offer a 4-year PhD full position (with internal evaluation after one year). All doctoral candidates will be members of UZH's graduate program and thus benefit from a comprehensive training program and extensive support measures, including the possibility to spend a period abroad. We offer outstanding working conditions, a high quality of life in Zurich, excellent support and a flexible work environment that fosters collaboration and teamwork.

Place of work

The candidate will be based at the Department of Geography, University of Zurich, Winterthurerstrasse 190, 8057 Zurich, Switzerland. The candidate is expected to work primarily in the office with the flexibility to work remotely one day a week.

Start of employment

The employment should start as soon as possible, based on mutual agreement.

The job announcement remains open until the position is filled. We will start reviewing applications on the 22nd of April.

If you are interested in this position and fulfil the requirements, we look forward to receiving your online application consisting of:

  • Cover letter (what excites you about this position, the work you have done and where you want your career to go) (max two pages)

  • Names and contact information (email) of 2 referees

  • CV (max three pages)

  • List of publications (if any)

  • Master certificate

  • Master thesis

Further information

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