2 PhD and 2 Postdoc positions in coastal resilience at UC Santa Barbara 

Interested in working on sandy beaches in California with a diverse group of coastal scientists and practitioners?  Positions are available on a state-funded California Climate Action Grant to examine the roles of coastal dunes as nature-based solutions (NbS) to enhance the resilience of California’s beaches to climate change. 

Our team is based at the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) and the Center for Climate Change Impacts & Adaptation at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego (UCSD), and involves partnerships with the California Sea Grant, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) Pacific Coastal & Marine Science Center, the US Fish & Wildlife Service – Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Point Blue Conservation Science, Morro Bay National Estuary Program, and the Coastal Ecosystems Institute of Northern California. Coordinated by the California Coastal Dune Science Network, the project leverages ongoing monitoring and research from 17 pilot sites statewide in collaboration with over 15 federal, state, and local end-users.

We are looking for two (2) Postdoctoral researchers and two (2) PhD students to conduct research on various aspects of coastal dune vulnerability, resilience, restoration, and performance as a NbS to climate change impacts. Applicants from disadvantaged or under-represented groups are particularly encouraged to apply. Positions will be based at UCSB and work collaboratively with an interdisciplinary team led by Drs. Ian Walker and Jenny Dugan along with other co-PIs at partner agencies/institutions listed above. Potential research topics include: 

  • Incorporate observational data on beach-dune morphodynamics to refine and expand a predictive model of storm impacts and future sea-level rise impacts (CoSMoS-COAST)
  • Coastal dune ecosystem vulnerability assessment based on a state-wide network of pilot sites
  • Develop an updated, comprehensive California coastal dune ecosystem inventory using historic maps/photos, satellite imagery, ground truthing, and other site-specific datasets 
  • Dune restoration site suitability and/or performance assessment frameworks based on Californian projects and practitioner/end-user experiences
  • Beach-dune geomorphology, ecology, and ecosystem resilience
  • Climatic variability impacts on beach-dune systems in California (e.g., El Nino seasons)

Postdoctoral Researcher positions also afford the opportunity for co-supervision and mentorship of PhD students and undergraduate researchers in related areas. Candidates could also spend a portion of their time on internships with the USGS Pacific Coastal & Marine Science Center in Santa Cruz or at the Center for Climate Change Impacts & Adaptation at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego. The postdoc positions are available immediately and funded for two (2) years. Positions will entail a competitive, full funding package commensurate with experience and UCSB’s updated salary scales for Postdoctoral Scholars.

PhD students can enroll in the Department of Geography, one of the nation’s best programs, or UCSB’s Interdepartmental Graduate Program in Marine Sciences (IGPMS). General research areas could include, but are not limited to: modeling of beach-dune morphodynamics, beach-dune ecogeomorphology, coastal dune resilience, coastal vulnerability, beach-dune restoration, storm- or sea-level rise impacts on sandy shorelines, or quantifying spatial-temporal changes in beach-dune systems using remote sensing. More details on these programs can be found online, or discussed with the PIs (contact information below). Positions will entail a competitive, full funding package commensurate with experience and UCSB’s posted salary scales for graduate student researchers.


Postdoctoral Researchers:

  • A PhD in Geography, Geomorphology, Earth/Environmental Sciences, Oceanography/Marine Science, Civil/Environmental Engineering, or related fields
  • Ability to design and conduct independent research, critical thinking skills
  • Interest in working in a collaborative, interdisciplinary team environment
  • Demonstrated technical/scientific writing and verbal communication skills
  • Evidence of research productivity including peer-reviewed publications, grant applications, conference presentations, etc.
  • Experience with theoretical, computational, experimental, and/or field-based environmental research and/or modeling, understanding of nearshore and/or beach-dune interaction processes

PhD students:

  • An Undergraduate and/or Masters degree in Geography, Geomorphology, Earth/Environmental Sciences, Oceanography/Marine Science, Civil/Environmental Engineering, or related fields. First class standing required. 
  • Coursework in geomorphology and/or physical oceanography and/or coastal ecology
  • Evidence of research experience and productivity, good technical writing skills
  • Admission requirements and application details here: https://www.geog.ucsb.edu/academics/graduate/apply.

Application Instructions:

Applicants should submit the following to Dr. Ian Walker, Professor, Department of Geography, UC Santa Barbara, ianjwalker@ucsb.edu

  • A current CV detailing coursework, analytical skills, research experience, publications, etc.
  • A cover letter describing the candidate’s interests and experience related to the position.
  • Contact information for 3 references.

Applicants are encouraged to submit their applications by 15 October 2023. Applications will be reviewed in the order received until the positions are filled. For more information about this research opportunity, please feel free to contact Drs. Ian Walker (ianjwalker@ucsb.edu) or Jenny Dugan (j_dugan@lifesci.ucsb.edu).  

The University of California is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, age, disability, protected veteran status, or any other characteristic protected by law.