The Qiu Lab at the University of Florida is seeking a prospective PhD student with strong motivation and enthusiasm about graduate research to study sustainability of food-water-energy (FWE) nexus, and ecosystem services in the Greater Miami Area in South Florida. The student will work on a National Science Foundation (NSF) funded project on optimizing FWE resources, mitigating trade-offs among ecosystem services within the FWE nexus, and enhancing community resilience to challenges exacerbated by climate change, population growth, and resource depletion. This is an international collaboration with the University of Central Florida, Florida Solar Energy Center, Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, and Ecofilae/IRSTEA/ECOSEC in France that forms through the Belmont Forum – Joint Programming Initiative (JPI) Urban Europe and NSF.

Many cities around the world are facing significant challenges in managing their FWE systems, and sustaining diverse ecosystem services. The challenges also arise from the fact that the issues of food, water and energy systems are often tightly connected with each other across local, regional and global scales (known as the Food-Water-Energy (FWE) Nexus). It is possible that an effective solution to one issue in the nexus (e.g., water) can cause tradeoffs or unexpected changes with other sectors. It remains unclear whether solutions to one issue can be sustainable across all food, water and energy systems, both at the local and the global scale. Hence, it requires a holistic approach that encompasses the nexus to better manage FWE systems in cities and understand the benefits and tradeoffs for alternative solutions. 

This interdisciplinary research project will develop a multi-scale modeling framework to address the inter-relationships between multiple stressors and the FWE in three cities– Amsterdam, Miami, and Marshall. The models will investigate effects of increasing population, land-use transition, escalating climate variability, and shifting norms on ecosystem services within the FWE nexus to elucidate the consequent water, carbon, and ecological footprints for each study region. Through modeling, the tradeoff and balances between various drivers and their effects on each segment on the nexus can be identified, which could then guide the development of scenarios that can optimize the sustainability FWE nexus in these cities. This information will be used to understand the role of key interventions from different types of nexuses associated with urban planning scenarios in affecting the final sustainable solution; and how different social networks help evaluate the acceptance of these potential solutions across different cultural contexts. This knowledge will then be used to understand both the physical and social resilience of the location and community to natural and anthropogenic stressors.

Expected start date is Spring (preferred) or Fall semester 2019. Candidates with interest and/or experience in ecosystem services, sustainability science, biophysical modeling and landscape ecology are encouraged to apply. Preference will be given to applicants with:

  • Master degree (research-based thesis) in a related field (e.g., ecology, environmental science)
  • Experience in biophysical modeling (e.g., Community Land Model or other similar biophysical models)
  • Strong quantitative (e.g., statistics, GIS, geospatial analysis) and programming skills (e.g., R, python, C++, or other equivalent language)
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills

Interested students are encouraged to contact Jiangxiao Qiu (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) in advance by sending a current CV with GPA, GRE and TOEFL (for non-native English speaker only), a list of three academic references who are willing to write letters of recommendation on your behalf, and a brief statement describing your research interests and experience as a single PDF. The successful candidate will be offered a competitive stipend, plus health insurance and full tuition waiver. Review of applications will begin immediately and continue until the position is filled.

Research in the Qiu Lab of “Landscape Ecology and Sustainability Science” (http://jiangxiaoqiu.weebly.com/) broadly falls into landscape ecology, ecosystem service, global change ecology, and sustainability science. Research from the lab is highly interdisciplinary and uses approaches combining biophysical modeling, landscape analysis, remote sensing, field observation and experiment, data synthesis, and social sciences. The overarching goal is to understand and predict how global environmental changes alter ecosystems and biodiversity across a range of spatial and temporal scales, and their consequences for ecosystem services. Current research in the lab includes: (1) climate and land-use change effects on ecosystem services; (2) sustainable agroecosystems; (3) biological invasions and biodiversity effects on ecosystem services; and (4) functional role of ecosystem services in affecting human well-being. The Qiu Lab is in the School of Forest Resources and Conservation, and based at Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida.

For more information, please visit website (http://jiangxiaoqiu.weebly.com) and departmental webpage (http://www.sfrc.ufl.edu/). Please feel free to email if there are questions about the opportunities and applications.