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PhD Researcher (PhD Candidate) in Remote Sensing for Regenerative Agriculture in East Africa with UNIVERSITY OF HELSINKI

The University of Helsinki is one of the world’s leading multidisciplinary research universities. In addition to its 11 faculties, the University comprises several independent institutes, some of which are operated jointly with other universities. Some 35,000 students are currently pursuing undergraduate or postgraduate studies at the University of Helsinki.

Measured by the number of students and teachers, the Faculty of Science at the University of Helsinki is the largest science faculty in Finland. There are approximately 6,000 students taking a foundation degree. Among them, about 1,000 are graduates. There are around 500 international students and more than 200 foreign researchers and teachers.

We are looking for a highly motivated PhD researcher (PhD Candidate) to join the Earth Change Laboratory (ECHOLAB) Remote Sensing Group. The position is located in the Department of Geosciences and Geography, Faculty of Science. Research at the Department of Geosciences and Geography covers the entire Earth, from the glaciers of Antarctica to bustling metropolises. The Earth and its changes over time are studied, for example, through the regional differentiation of cities and states, long-term environmental changes, tectonics, and the structure and development of the planet.

The description

We are recruiting a PhD researcher, who will be part of the international research team working on the REACT project (Regenerative agricultural systems for climate resilience in the agro-ecological gradient in East Africa) funded by the Academy of Finland.

REACT aims to develop new knowledge on water, soils, biodiversity and land management to improve resource use efficiency for smallholder regenerative agricultural systems in different agro-ecological zones of Kenya. We develop research-based measures with local agricultural actors to improve the climate resilience of cropping systems. The project will contribute to this systemic change by identifying effective adoptable pathways to improve plant water availability and stable soil organic carbon sequestration for improved water retention under varying conditions. This aims to ensure long-term productive and resilient regenerative agricultural systems to maintain food security while operating within current and future environmental limits due to climate change.

Remote sensing research in REACT aims to provide new information on the feasibility of Earth observation data to characterize smallholder cropping systems, particularly related to regenerative agriculture, which is crucial for developing indicators spatial data for improved planning and monitoring of management interventions.

The doctoral researcher will be employed for four years at the University of Helsinki. In addition to conducting research and writing the doctoral thesis, the doctoral researcher completes a study program equivalent to 40 ECTS in the doctoral program in atmospheric sciences ( research/doctoral-education/doctoral-schools -et-programmes/doctoral-school-in-natural-sciences/doctoral-program-in-atmospheric-sciences). The typical time to complete a PhD at the University of Helsinki is four years.

The objective of the doctoral project is to develop remote sensing methods to classify smallholder farming systems and target, evaluate and scale up regenerative agriculture interventions. You will carry out field surveys and biophysical measurements in Kenya, perform time series analyzes of satellite images for study sites in different agro-ecological zones, and use machine learning methods for data analysis. The University of Helsinki has a research station in the Taita Hills, Kenya (, which serves as a logistical base for field studies in the region .

Requirements and eligibility criteria

  • M.Sc. in an appropriate field, such as geography, agricultural sciences, geoinformatics, remote sensing or equivalent. The successful candidate is expected to have previous experience working with remote sensing data.
  • Demonstrated ability in data analysis
  • Experience in conducting independent research and working in a team
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills in English
  • Good time management and project management skills

The requirements for doing a PhD at the University of Helsinki can be viewed at: The researcher must not already hold a doctorate on the date of recruitment. Researchers who have successfully defended their doctoral thesis but have not yet officially obtained the doctoral degree will not be considered eligible. Salary and benefits

Salary and benefits

The salary is based on the salary system of Finnish universities. The gross starting salary of a doctoral researcher is usually around €2,200-2,400 per month and gradually increases as the doctoral work progresses (i.e. after the start of the publication and after reaching the midpoint of the experimental work required for the doctorate, judged by the invigilator who estimates the proximity of public defense).

The University of Helsinki invests in the well-being of its employees by providing preventive occupational health services and general medical care. Learn more about University of Helsinki benefits and why University of Helsinki is a great career choice:

How to register

Please submit your application via our recruitment system at the latest September 6, 2022. The start date for the positions is October 1, 2022, or as agreed. Questions about the positions should be directed to academic researcher Janne Heiskanen (

The request must include

  • a motivation letter, including a brief outline of previous research and other experiences in support of obtaining the doctorate (max 1 page)
  • a comprehensive CV with full contact details, previous education/degrees obtained, previous work/research experience and list of possible publications and theses with links to their online versions (if available)
  • copy/copies of diploma(s) of previous diploma(s)
  • contact information for one or more former supervisors, employers or other references

The University of Helsinki welcomes applicants from a variety of gender identities and linguistic and cultural backgrounds.

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