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Funded PhD position in dendroclimatology at the University of Minnesota

The Center for Dendrochronology at the University of Minnesota is accepting applications for a fully-funded PhD position to start in Fall 2017. The successful candidate will join a NSF-sponsored project studying low-frequency climate variability and the causes of widespread megadrought in North America (, and collaborate with paleoclimatologists, statisticians, and climate scientists at the University of Minnesota, Cornell University, and the United States Geological Survey (USGS).


Under the supervision of Dr. Scott St. George (, the candidate will use tree-ring data, climate simulations, and biological process models to clarify how and why drought in North America may persist for one or more decades. First, the student will produce a new set of tree-ring records from the Northern Hemisphere that is optimized to recover low-frequency (decadal- to centennial-scale) environmental signals. Afterwards, the student will estimate the spatial structure of dec-cen variability in tree-ring records across North America, and outline the fingerprint of major low-frequency climate modes within the tree-ring network. Other major tasks include (i) helping to lead a pair of summer workshops on dendroclimatology for statisticians and computer scientists, and (ii) collaborating with researchers at Cornell’s Emergent Climate Risk Lab ( to test the ability of state-of-the-art climate models to simulate megadrought.


Understanding decadal drought and multidecadal megadrought risk requires us to characterize the amplitudes and spatial patterns of climate fluctuations on these time scales. Decadal-centennial (dec-cen) variability in terrestrial climate, including ’megadroughts’, may arise due to low-frequency behavior in the oceans or may be residuals from high-frequency forcings, but instrumental climate records by themselves are not adequate to distinguish between these two frameworks. Proxy records from natural archives are able to extend our perspective on the climate system beyond the last century and a half, making these data essential for evaluating the pre-instrumental behavior of dec-cen climate variability. In terrestrial settings, records of tree-ring width and latewood density have been the dominant source of information about dec-cen behavior due to their high resolution and dating accuracy, but important questions about the ability of this archive to describe low-frequency climate variability remain unanswered.


We seek to hire a highly motivated student who holds an M.Sc. or equivalent in a relevant field and has research experience in dendrochronology, climatology, or Quaternary environmental change. Undergraduate or graduate training in botany, physics, statistics, or mathematics would be an asset, as would basic programming skills in Matlab, Python, R, or equivalent. Minimum academic qualifications include a 3.5 GPA on a 4.0 system.


$17,500 to $22,500 during the Fall/Spring Academic term, depending on qualifications. Students will receive an additional stipend for summer work (up to $7,000), and be encouraged to apply for college- and university-level fellowships and research grants. Finally, if the successful applicant is a United States citizen, they will have the opportunity to apply for a USGS internship through their Graduate Student Preparedness program (

How to apply

Students interested in this opportunity should contact Dr. St. George by sending an inquiry to In order to evaluate your qualifications, it would be helpful to share: (i) a cover letter outlining your research experience and motivation for joining this project; (ii) an up-to-date curriculum vitae, including contact information for at least two referees; and (iii) academic transcripts for degrees completed or in-progress (either official or unofficial).

Students will subsequently apply to either the Ph.D. program in Geography ( or Land and Atmospheric Science ( at the University of Minnesota. Please do not submit an application to either program without contacting Dr. St. George first.

Closing date

December 15, 2016

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