Assimilation of remote sensing data into hydrodynamic and ecological models in the Mississippi River Delta

Job Details

Job ID: 10426

The Mississippi River Delta drains about 41% of the contiguous United States into the Gulf of Mexico.  It is the 7th largest delta  on Earth but is rapidly losing land.  This project is your opportunity to further our understanding of the hydrological and biological processes driving land gain or loss using NASA’s latest remote sensing technology. 


Located in Pasadena, California, JPL has a campus-like environment situated on 177 acres in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains and offers a work environment unlike any other: we inspire passion, foster innovation, build collaboration, and reward excellence.


The Mississippi River delta (MRD) covers approximately 10,000km2 but is quickly losing wetlands (~75km2/year), drowning under rising sea level and ground subsidence. To assess the vulnerability of the delta and forecast risk, it is necessary to understand the processes by which the deltaic landscape can build ground elevation. It is known the availability of sediments varies significantly between seasons, and that the role of plants, with their structural characteristics, may have a significant impact on deposition rates and on the connectivity between water channel and islands.  In this project, we seek to quantify the relative contributions and feedbacks of two dominant processes contributing to elevation: 1) deposition of inorganic sediments and 2) accumulation of organic material produced by plants. Current numerical hydrodynamic models (e.g. Delft3D) enable simulation of the flow of water, sediment load and deposition. To improve model simulations, input layers describing the heterogeneity of the landscape can provide a realistic account of resistance to flow and the impact of vegetation patterns on sediment deposition. As such a plant productivity module should be developed that generate estimates of root production and resistance to flow.


We are seeking a postdoctoral researcher to assimilate the science-ready remote sensing data products (e.g. water surface level, vegetation cover maps) into the hydrological and ecogeomorphic (plant productivity) models. In addition, the postdoc will support the generation of combined multi-source products (i.e. from remote sensing and models). Since the Delta-X project involved a large team with researchers from 7 institutions, the selected candidate will act as a point of contact to collect and assemble datasets from multiple co-investigators into a database.  The selected candidate should expect to work within a large team of multidiscplinary researchers from several institutions; and be prepared to work in a stimulating and dynamic environment.


Dr. Marc Simard will serve as the postdoctoral advisor. The appointee will carry out research in collaboration with the JPL advisor and others, resulting in publications in the open literature.


Candidates should have a recent PhD in a related field. The ideal candidate would be familiar with hydrological and ecological processes in the deltaic environments. In situ field experience is a must. In addition, experience with hydrology 2D or 3D numerical modeling and understanding of plant productivity models is desired. Candidates should have good to excellent abilities in programming (python and/or C++ preferred). Knowledge of GIS (e.g. QGIS) is a desired as well. Candidates who have received their PhD within the past five years since the date of their application are eligible. Postdoctoral Scholar positions are awarded for a minimum of one-year period and may be renewed up to a maximum duration of three years.


Candidates should submit the following to this site: CV, representative publications, contact information for three references, and a cover letter stating their research accomplishments and interests. We are looking to fill this position immediately. Desired start date no later than December 30, 2019.

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