PhD Opportunity: Climate-active gases in Arctic lakes and ponds, INRS

PhD in “Climate-active gases in Arctic lakes and ponds” at Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS), Quebec City, QC, Canada

Project context:

This 4-year PhD position on exchange of biogenic volatile organic compounds (BVOCs) and methane in Arctic freshwater ecosystems is offered at the Eau Terre Environnement Research Centre of the Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS) in Quebec City, Canada. This university research centre is actively involved in sustainable development in Quebec. With its cutting-edge research, the Centre is at the heart of scientific and technological developments aimed at protecting the environment and sustainably developing natural resources.

This position will be based at the Nordic limnology laboratory LimNord specialized on small lake ecosystems associated with thawing permafrost. LimNord studies dissolved organic matter, its transformation by microbial and photochemical action, and its effects on greenhouse gas emissions, thermal stratification, oxygen and light availability, drinking water quality and salmonid habitat sustainability. These studies are conducted in the context of water browning linked to permafrost thawing and the greening of the Arctic.  

Project description:

Water transparency is decreasing in lakes worldwide due to climate and environmental changes, which could affect primary production and fluxes of BVOCs, including isoprene and dimethyl sulfide. These climate-relevant trace gases are a small but highly reactive part of the carbon cycle, with important ecological functions and implications for atmospheric chemistry and climate. The current paradigm that land vegetation is the main source of BVOC in terrestrial atmospheres is shifting with the recognition that lakes can release significant amounts of isoprene, particularly at latitudes above 50°N where limnicity is at its highest on the planet. However the processes involved in this release are under-researched, poorly understood and isoprene data from lakes in subarctic and tundra zones are unavailable.

As with methane emissions, BVOC emissions from Arctic lakes and ponds are likely to increase as summers lengthen, permafrost thaws and waters become richer in nutrients and organic matter, profoundly transforming the light available for photosynthesis and generating warmer, more strongly stratified waters. This project aims to study the control factors on BVOC and methane emissions from Arctic lakes and ponds. More specifically, it aims to compare emissions from systems along a gradient of permafrost erosion and vegetation growth, taking into account the wide array of primary producers observed on the tundra landscape (from phytoplankton to cyanobacterial mats, brown mosses, sedges, grasses or dwarf shrubs), and the potential of positive climate feedback imposed by the mobilization of ancient carbon pools.

The project will include field measurements and in situ experiments to test the effect of water browning. It will be done in collaboration with Prof. Michael Steinke (University of Essex, UK) and Prof. Riikka Rinnan (University of Copenhagen, Denmark), and will involve training and measurements in their lab.

Start date:

Winter or spring 2024

Research supervision:

Supervisor: Prof. Isabelle Laurion (INRS)

Co-supervisor: Prof. Michael Steinke (University of Essex, UK)

Study program:

PhD in Water Sciences (French description only), Eau Terre Environnement Research Centre, INRS

To be eligible for this program, you must have completed a degree equivalent to the Canadian Master’s degree with a minimum grade of 3.2/4.3 or equivalent. Detailed admission conditions (French only).

Your responsibilities will be to carry out an independent research project under supervision, to participate actively in the research environment of the institute and laboratory, to take part in knowledge dissemination activities, to write scientific papers for high-impact journals, and to write and defend a PhD thesis. The program includes two courses in water or earth sciences (6 credits), a doctoral exam (6 credits), and 78 research credits.


INRS offers funding to all its students

Required qualifications:

An enthusiastic, curious and ambitious candidate with a Master’s degree in biology, ecology, chemistry, microbiology or a similar field, obtained before the start of the PhD. Experience in limnology, Arctic sciences, gas exchange measurements or gas chromatography is an asset. Candidates’ research potential will be assessed on the basis of their previous scientific experience and publications. They are looking for someone who is interested in working in remote areas under sometimes difficult field conditions, and who has an interest in Inuit culture and the desire to participate in awareness-raising activities.

Fluency in written and spoken English is essential, as is a basic knowledge of French (or a strong desire to learn in the first year). Quebec City is a French-speaking city, and the few courses required to complete the program are taught in French at INRS.

How to apply:

Please fill out the form to send us your application, in either English or French, including all of the following:

  1. Application letter describing your motivation and research interests (max. 1 page)         
  2. Curriculum vitae including information about your education, experience, language skills and other skills relevant for the position (max. 2 pages)
  3. Original diplomas for Bachelor of Science and Master of Science, and university transcripts in the original language, including an authorized English or French translation if issued in another language. If the master is not completed, a certified copy of a recent transcript or a written statement from the institution or supervisor.
  4. List of publications
  5. Abstract or short summary of the master thesis
  6. Contact details of two references

Application deadline: 15 December 2023, 23:59 UTC +1.

After this date, a number of candidates will be selected for academic evaluation by an unbiased expert evaluator. You will be informed if you are selected for an interview. For more information about INRS admission process.

For more information about this PhD project, please contact Professor Isabelle Laurion: