PhD position in “Modelling biodiversity impacts in LCA”

100%, Zurich, temporary

ETH Zurich and the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission are inviting applications for PhD positions through the Collaborative Doctoral Partnership (CDP) scheme.

Project background

The CDP scheme intends to enhance the science-policy link through strategic collaborations with higher education institutions characterized by research excellence and international reputation, in order to:

  • Train a new generation of doctoral graduates in science and technology with a focus on the science-policy interface, able to understand the research needs at different stages of the policy cycle, capable of providing scientific support to policy and of using transferable skills in science communication and knowledge management.
  • Co-develop, co-host and co-supervise doctoral studies between higher education institutions and the JRC.
  • Strengthen collaboration between the JRC and higher education institutions by promoting mutual enhancement of related skills and competences, combining existing knowledge and capacities, and enhancing networking in key scientific areas.

Job description

Within the CDP framework we are looking for a PhD candidate to:

  • Understand and quantify the temporal trajectory of biodiversity loss after an intervention and recovery after restauration.
  • Develop a model for “delays” in biodiversity response.
  • Calibrate and/or validate the models with empirical data, e.g. the Digital Observatory for Protected Areas (DOPA; to assess biodiversity within and around protected areas (globally).
  • Integrate the new findings into existing methods for life cycle impact assessment of biodiversity loss.
  • Apply the new method(s) to case studies:
    • Assessment of future land-use policy scenarios.
    • Comparison of national (territorial biodiversity impacts) and supply-chain (biodiversity footprint) perspective.

The objective of this PhD will be to support the development of refined models to address biodiversity impacts of supply chains, linking results with evidence of biodiversity loss at EU and global level. A theoretical and modelling framework for the use of micro data to better understand the dynamic of the biodiversity effect and recovery, to potentially validate biodiversity impacts estimates, to suggest policies that merge supply chain improvements and biodiversity conservations goals. In the first phase, during her/his stay in ETH, the PhD candidate will familiarize with existing biodiversity impact assessment models, conducting a sensitivity of the results and identifying inconsistencies and gaps in the assessment. Based on that, a proposal for a refined model addressing temporal trajectory of biodiversity will be developed, which considers different management and intervention intensities e.g. for land use, overexploitation of resources etc. The candidate will also write and defend her/his research plan. In a second phase during her/his stay at the JRC, the PhD candidate will further develop the model capitalizing on Earth observation data and indicators, calibrating and/or validating the models with empirical data, e.g. the Digital Observatory for Protected Areas (DOPA; to assess biodiversity within and around protected areas. At a final stage at ETH, the PhD candidate will test the model on different case studies.

We offer a four-year PhD position in collaboration with the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission. The PhD research will be realized at the Joint Research Centre (JRC) in Ispra, Italy, for a period of up to 24 months. We offer a competitive fellowship. While at the JRC in Ispra, you will get a contract as a Grant Holder 20*.

Your profile

  • You have (or are near completion of) a Master in Environmental Sciences, Environmental Engineering, Ecology, Biology (or a related field). 
  • You have a strong interest in biodiversity research and life cycle assessment and experience in at least one of these two fields.
  • Experience with spatial analysis of large-scale datasets and remote sensing is a major asset.
  • Good knowledge of GIS and experience with R, Matlab, or Python scripting is an advantage.
  • You work proactively and independently and have good communication skills.
  • You have a very good knowledge of English, both spoken and written.
  • Relevant publications in peer review journals would be an asset and should be highlighted.
  • You are highly motivated, ambitious and result-oriented.

Candidates should have the nationality of a Member State of the EU or a country associated with the Research Framework Programs (Horizon2020) at the start of the employment contract with JRC. Candidates from other countries may also apply, providing they have a residence and work permit in Italy. They will have to go through a security clearance before they can be granted the GH contract.

ETH Zurich

ETH Zurich is one of the world’s leading universities specialising in science and technology. We are renowned for our excellent education, cutting-edge fundamental research and direct transfer of new knowledge into society. Over 30,000 people from more than 120 countries find our university to be a place that promotes independent thinking and an environment that inspires excellence. Located in the heart of Europe, yet forging connections all over the world, we work together to develop solutions for the global challenges of today and tomorrow.
Working, teaching and research at ETH Zurich Link icon


We look forward to receiving your online application. Applications sent by e-mail or post will not be considered. The selection process is based on the CV, tests and interviews. It is composed of two phases, that is, a first selection is made by ETH Zurich resulting in a short list of candidates and then a second selection is made by JRC.  After the selection process, you will enrol in the PhD programme Science and Policy at ETH Zurich hosted by the Zurich-Basel Plant Science Center (

For further information, please visit our website Questions regarding the position should be directed by email to Prof. Stefanie Hellweg, (no applications).


Your workplace