PhD position: Detection and analysis of landslide-induced river course changes

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The Department of Geography and Geology at the University of Salzburg (Austria) invites applications for a PhD position (30 hours/week, 3 years) on the detection and analysis of landslide-induced river course changes and lake formation, starting spring 2017. Landslides are among the most serious threats to human lives and infrastructure in mountain ranges worldwide. Beyond the direct hazard posed by the moving mass, landslides can initiate natural hazard cascades by damming rivers and initiating catastrophic flash floods or debris flows. Through such long-range effects even unwitnessed landslides occurring in remote areas matter. Critically, insufficient information exists on landslide occurrence and recurrence intervals, and hence on the hazard potential of landslide hazard cascades, as well as possible prediction and prevention measures. In frame of the Austrian Academy of Sciences funded RiCoLa (River Courses and Landslides) project, the successful applicant will analyze and directly compare the role of predisposing, preparatory and triggering factors in the formation of landslide-induced hazard cascades over large areas and in different mountain ranges.

Main tasks are:

  • Developing a highly automated and transferrable technique to combine drainage system characteristics from digital elevation models with river courses and lakes extracted from satellite imagery for (object-based) change detection and time-series analysis.
  • Apply the new technique to different mountain ranges worldwide.
  • Carry out on-sight and digital data-based validation of the results.
  • Quantitatively analyzing the results to improve the understanding of a) natural hazard cascades resulting from landslide-river interference and b) the importance of landsliding for drainage network evolution.

Applicants should have a M.Sc. degree in natural sciences or informatics. Excellent computer skills and good knowledge of at least one of the following programming languages are essential: Python, MatLab, C/C++. The successful applicant will possess strong written and oral communication skills in English language, be expected to present results at national and international conferences and to publish in peer-reviewed international journals. Knowledge of (object-based) image analysis, remote sensing, geostatistics or geomorphology, as well as experience in publishing articles in peer-reviewed journals and in doing fieldwork are an advantage.

The successful applicant will be embedded in a doctoral training school at the University of Salzburg with excellent research conditions. The City of Salzburg is located at the fringe of the European Alps and offers a superb quality of life. Applications (including CV and motivation letter with own ideas, copy of MSc. diploma, and contact details of two referees) are to be sent via e-mail in a single PDF file to guenther.prasicek [at] Application deadline is February 28th 2017.

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