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Numerical Terradynamic Simulation Group (NTSG)

W.A. Franke College of Forestry & Conservation

The University of Montana

Missoula, Montana 59812

Phone: (406) 243-4922


Graduate research opportunity on remote sensing of agricultural yields and water use

The Numerical Terradynamic Simulation Group (NTSG) and the Geosciences Department at the University of Montana (UM) invites applications for a PhD graduate research assistantship (GRA) focusing on developing new satellite remote sensing based ecological models for estimating cropland productivity and water use. The remote sensing derived estimates of crop yields and water use will be used within a socioeconomic modeling framework to investigate how farmers allocate land and water resources in response to climate variability, economic and policy constraints.

The successful candidate will be integrated in an interdisciplinary team of researchers that include remote sensing specialists (Dr. John Kimball), hydroloclimatologists (Dr. Marco Maneta, Dr. Kelsey Jencso), and water policy specialists (Dr. Brian Chaffin) to develop transformative decision support tools involving integrated hydro-economic modeling of agricultural production driven by field observations, multi-sensor satellite remote sensing of crop yields and water use, outputs from regional climate models, and socioeconomic data for Montana agricultural systems. The student will be expected to develop their own research within the overall project framework and will have the opportunity to interact with Principal Investigators, other research scientists, public and private industry stakeholders. The student researcher will participate as a productive member of a larger interdisciplinary research group pioneering new ecological remote sensing applications.

The GRA duties will include digital image processing and integration of multi-sensor and multi-scale satellite remote sensing and other geospatial data for mapping irrigated and non-irrigated lands, cropland vegetation phenology and water stress; application and development of remote sensing data-driven ecological models for estimating field-scale crop yields, evapotranspiration, and water use efficiency; conducting research, writing scientific papers and publishing in peer-reviewed scientific journals; conducting public outreach and giving oral presentations on research findings.

The position requires BS and MS degrees in environmental engineering, eco-hydrology or a related discipline, and demonstrated experience in remote sensing and numerical modeling. The position also requires: digital image processing experience using Matlab, IDL/ENVI, EarthEngine or similar software environments; programming experience in a common language such as C/C++, R or, preferably, Python; experience in both Linux and Windows environments; experience with processing and manipulation of large stacked geospatial data records, and familiarity with common digital image formats (HDF5, GeoTiff). Experience and interest in agricultural systems and applications is also desired. To qualify for the GRA position, prospective students must apply and gain acceptance to the UM Graduate School. The Student will work toward a PhD in the Systems Ecology interdisciplinary graduate program on the University of Montana campus in Missoula, MT.

The GRA position includes a monthly stipend and tuition coverage. The position is initially offered for a two-year appointment beginning in the 2018 fall semester; additional support for up to five-years is dependent on satisfactory performance and continuity of project funds. Qualified applicants should submit a CV and statement of research interests to Dr. John S. Kimball ( at the University of Montana.

The University of Montana provides a culture that values hard work, intellectual curiosity, diversity, collegiality, innovative thinking, and teamwork, making it a great place to grow and develop professionally. The University of Montana is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer and has a strong institutional commitment to the principle of diversity in all areas. In that spirit, we are particularly interested in receiving applications from a broad spectrum of qualified people who would assist the University in demonstrating its essential values of innovation and creativity, impact, openness, and partnership.