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Funded graduate position in paleoflood hydrology, University of Minnesota

I’m seeking to recruit a graduate student (beginning Fall 2019) to join an NSF-funded project on extreme paleofloods on the northern Great Plains.

This position, which will be co-supervised by me and Dr. Joe Zeleznik (North Dakota State University), will combine methods from dendrochronology, wood anatomy, and paleoflood hydrology to produce extended flood records for the Red River of the North basin. The successful candidate will receive additional training from our collaborators at the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research and the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

The project is structured to support a Master’s student for two years, but for outstanding candidates with a broad interest in paleoflood hydrology, I’d be willing to talk about reconfiguring the position as part of a PhD program.

Why past floods matter

In the past two decades, major floods along the Red River (of the North) have caused more than $3.5 billion in direct damages to American communities within the past two decades, and have spurred the construction or proposed construction of nearly $2.5 billion in flood mitigation infrastructure. But because the known record of Red River floods only extends back to the late 19th century, other sources of information are needed to estimate the risks of future severe floods.

By producing a new, multi-century long paleoflood record for the Red River, our team will be able to address questions regarding the synchrony of flooding along the entire reach of the river, and to gauge how flooding on the northern Great Plains is connected to local or regional climate variability. This study will help basin residents evaluate their own vulnerability to floods and to weigh the potential benefits of proposed flood infrastructure. This work will also feed into nation-wide efforts to improve flood hazard assessments across the United States and study the impacts of climate change on extreme floods. Moreover, globally there is a lack of evidence and thus low confidence regarding the sign of trend in flood frequency or magnitude, so a multi-century flood record for the Red River of the North will represent an important contribution to ongoing efforts to understand the physical processes that control the occurrence and magnitude of extreme floods


As part of our team, the student will produce annually-resolved, multi-century-long time series of tree-ring width, vessel lumen area, and other wood anatomical variables from the upper Red River tree-ring network. They will have the primary responsibility for preparing at least one publication that will identify the ‘fingerprint’ of known Red River floods on tree growth, evaluate the fidelity of trees as paleoflood sensors, and describe new extended paleoflood record for North Dakota and Minnesota.

In addition to their classes at Minnesota, the student will attend a summer short course on quantitative wood anatomy offered by the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research. As part of this workshop, they’ll learn sample preparation skills, be introduced to the ROXAS software platform, and receiving training in the use of anatomical metrics for environmental research. And finally, depending on the availability of additional funds, the student may also have the opportunity to conduct a short internship at the USGS Dakota Water Science Center in Bismarck, North Dakota, under the supervision of Dr. Karen Ryberg.


I’m looking for a motivated student who holds an B.Sc. (or equivalent) in geography or a relevant field and has prior coursework or research experience in hydrology, botany, or dendrochronology. In order to be admitted to our graduate program, students must have obtained a minimum of a 3.5 GPA (in a 4.0 system). I don’t care about your GRE score but unfortunately it’s still required for all graduate applications at Minnesota and does make a difference for some college-level awards.

Salary and financial support

$17,500 to $23,000 during the Fall/Spring Academic term, depending on qualifications. Students will receive an additional stipend during summer (up to $7,000), and be recommended for college- and university-level fellowships and research grants.

How to apply

Students interested in this opportunity should send an note introducing themselves to

In order to evaluate your qualifications, it would be helpful if you can briefly (i) describe your past education or experience and motivation for joining this project and send (ii) an up-to-date curriculum vitae or resume, including contact information for at least two referees; and (iii) academic transcripts for degrees completed or in-progress (unofficial is fine).

Students will subsequently apply to the M.A. (or possibly Ph.D.) program in Geography (, but please don’t submit an application without talking to me first

Closing date

December 15, 2018

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