Posted: December, 2019
Anticipated start:  September 2020.
Supervisory team: Dr. Joe Melton (University of Victoria/Environment and Climate Change Canada), Dr. Merritt Turetsky (INSTAAR at CU Boulder), Dr. Colin Goldblatt (University of Victoria).

Project description: Reducing uncertainty in predicted soil carbon dynamics of permafrost regions.

Permafrost regions, which are characterized by soils that are perennially frozen, are rapidly warming due to anthropogenic climate change and there is considerable uncertainty around how the massive amounts of carbon in the soil of those regions will respond. Computer models based on physical understanding of processes including how soils transfer heat offer the ability to project how future warming will impact the region’s physical and biogeochemical environment. Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) develops and applies the Canadian Earth System Model (CanESM) to answer several climate change related questions. This master’s thesis project will aim to improve the capabilities of CLASSIC, the land component of CanESM, to simulate permafrost region soil carbon processes more realistically.

The CLASSIC model is based upon the mathematical implementation of empirical observations. As a result, CLASSIC is termed a ‘process-based’ model. While process-based models have many parameter values that can be observed directly, they also can contain parameter values that have no known or observable value. Determining the appropriate values of these ‘free’ parameters is difficult and made worse as the number of parameters within a model or simulated process increases – the problem of equifinality. This position, as part of PermafrostNet (, will use Bayesian methods along with a suite of observations to determine optimal parameter values for the soil carbon component of CLASSIC. The parameter values developed through this project will be incorporated in future versions of the CanESM thus informing global efforts around climate change impacts such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessments.

Interested applicants should have a BSc in physics, geography, environmental science, earth science, mathematics, software engineering or related field, ideally possessing previous experience with statistics, linear algebra, numerical modelling and computer coding. Applicants must be self-motivated, have strong communication skills, and be well organized.

The University of Victoria and PermafrostNet are strongly committed to fostering diversity as a source of excellence, cultural enrichment, and social strength. We welcome those who would contribute to further diversification including, but not limited to, women; visible minorities; First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples; persons with disabilities; and persons of any sexual orientation or gender identity and expressions.

Funding: Full funding (plus benefits) is guaranteed for two years and additional support for research and conference travel is available for the duration of the project.

APPLICATION: Send Dr. Joe Melton ( your letter of interest, CV, a writing sample, copy of transcript(s), and contact information for 3 references. Applications will be reviewed as they are received. We thank all applicants for their interest, however, only those individuals selected for an interview will be contacted.