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The EU-funded Innovative Training Network FutureArctic aims to quantify how much carbon will escape from the Arctic in future climate. How do the multitude of ecosystem processes, driven by plant growth, microbial activities and soil characteristics, interact to determine soil carbon storage capacity? A group of fifteen PhD-students (Early Stage Researchers, ESRs) will study the ForHot ecosystem in Iceland, where a natural coincidence has provided us with the exceptional opportunity to actually look into the future.
Given the strong urgency of tackling and managing the climate challenge and the particularly important role herein of (sub)Arctic ecosystems, a rapid assessment of the ecosystem and ambient processes in this natural laboratory is essential. FutureArctic will achieve this challenge by adopting the fast advances made in the field of machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and (remote) sensor technology into environmental research at the ecosystem scale, into a new concept of an ‘ecosystem-of-things’ (EoT).
FutureArctic thus aims to channel an important evolution to automated machine-assisted fundamental environmental research. This is achieved through dedicated training of researchers with profiles at the inter-sectoral edge of computer science, artificial intelligence, environmental and agricultural science, sensor engineering and communication and social sciences. FutureArctic training ensures the development of unique enviro-technological job profiles, all with their own specialty, embedded in holistic knowledge on connected high-data throughput ecosystem research, ready for machine-assisted environmental ecosystem science and modelling.
Your PhD project
You will develop a permanently installed, fully automated, and remote-controllable mini-rhizotron (MR) camera system with UHD resolution to facilitate root phenological studies in situ. This system will be tested and validated at the ForHot field site under harsh arctic conditions. You will also identify wavebands beyond the visible spectrum allowing for enhanced segmentation (i.e. separation between roots and soil) and species-specific differentiation of three exemplary arctic root systems via image analyses - using a unique hyper-spectral camera set-up for rhizoboxes. A data processing pipeline, involving machine learning tools, will be developed for automatic analysis of the gathered RGB and/or hyperspectral root signatures. Finally, strategies how to integrate multi-spectral imaging capacities in future generations of MR camera systems will be developed.
The PhD will be supervised by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Boris Rewald, a co-founder of VSI, and co-supervised by PD Dr. Gernot Bodner at BOKU, and Dr. Ivika Ostonen at UTARTU. The BOKU researchers combine their expertise in (hyperspectral) imaging, plant physiology, soil science, forestry and agronomy, and root phenotyping with UTARTUs expertise in root and soil ecology to facilitate the much-needed technological advancement in root research.
You will embark on secondments to other FutureArctic partners (UTARTU, BOKU, IMEC, LBHI). At UTARTU you will be trained in recognizing roots and mycelia in MR images, and analysis of root phenology. At BOKU you will set-up rhizobox experiments to determine hyperspectral properties of key arctic plants and train models towards species-specific analyses of root growth dynamics – assisted by the machine-learning experts at IMEC (Steven Latré). At LBHI (Bjarni D. Sigurdsson) you will set-up field tests and learn about specific aspects of Arctic ecosystems.
Benefits of working in an ITN
Benefits of working at VSI
Vienna Scientific Instruments GmbH (VSI) is a young and dynamic engineering startup focusing on scientific instrumentation. Our offices and workshops are located in Alland – just outside the city borders of amazing Vienna. VSI has currently seven full-time employees with a core expertise in mechatronics, process automation and rapid prototyping, and a fully equipped workshop. Become part of our thriving R&D&I team!
Vienna Scientific Instruments seeks to increase the number of its female staff members. Therefore qualified women are strongly encouraged to apply. In case of equal qualification, female candidates will be given preference unless reasons specific to an individual male candidate tilt the balance in his favour.
Please, find additional information in the Information package for Marie Curie fellows.
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 813114
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