Junior Research Scientist in hydrology - Water balance at territory scale and aquifer recharge


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INRAE presentation

The French National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food, and the Environment (INRAE) is a public research establishment under the dual authority of the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Research.

INRAE is recruiting researchers by open competition and offering permanent position.

It is a major player in research and innovation created on 1st of January 2020. INRAE is a research institute resulting from the merger of INRA and IRSTEA. It is a community of 12,000 people with more than 200 research units and 42 experimental units located throughout France.

The institute is among the world leaders in agricultural and food sciences, in plant and animal sciences, and is 11th in the world in ecology and environment. INRAE’s main goal is to be a key player in the transitions necessary to address major global challenges. In the face of the increase in population, climate change, scarcity of resources and decline in biodiversity, the institute develops solutions for multiperformance agriculture, high quality food and sustainable management of resources and ecosystems.

Work environment, missions and activities

You will be recruited by the "Environnement Méditerranéen et Modélisation des Agro-Hydrosystèmes" (EMMAH) unit, which develops research aimed at understanding and modeling the functioning of agrosystems in interaction with groundwater. At EMMAH, you will be attached to the DREAM team (Dynamique des territoires, fonctionnement des Espaces Agricoles et Modélisation) whose research focuses on the dynamics of plant production and water flows at the scale of agricultural territories as a function of the agropedoclimatic context. You will also work closely with the HYDRO team, which is interested in the functioning of aquifers, and your work will be part of the GEAUDE partnership chair on groundwater management.

Aquifer recharge is the result of complex processes involving the infiltration/runoff separation at the surface, diffusive or concentrated flows throughout the unsaturated zone (soil and deep unsaturated zone) or runoff processes towards preferential infiltration zones. Global changes, through changes in rainfall patterns (linked to climate change) and changes in surface properties (linked, for example, to changes in land use or the introduction of agro-ecological practices), will impact recharge, not only through the volume of precipitation, but also through the weighting of the processes involved, which may affect the quantities of water reaching the aquifer. Your research will therefore focus on characterizing and modeling recharge at spatial and temporal scales that enable integration across an aquifer's catchment area as part of a distributed approach. This approach is able to take land use, land management and pedoclimatic contexts into account. This will lead you to consider contributing spatial entities with homogeneous soil, climate, plant cover, geology and relief, or landscape patterns within which runoff brings water towards infiltration zones. Such a spatial scale raises a number of methodological and theoretical challenges, which will be at the heart of your scientific topic.

Initially, you will seek to characterize the partitioning of water flows between preferential vertical flows that cannot be mobilized by plants and contribute directly to recharge, diffusive flows that can be intercepted by plant cover, and runoff, on homogeneous spatial entities (agricultural plot or surface area of a few ha). This topic has been identified as a scientific bottleneck for a long time. You will be able to explore new avenues by taking advantage of methodological advances in the understanding of precipitation fields, spatialized monitoring of evapotranspiration by remote sensing, geochemical and isotopic tracing and geophysical methods. In addition to these methods mastered by UMR EMMAH, you will have access to observatories and experimental devices (lysimeter) managed by the laboratory or integrated into research infrastructures such as ICOS, AnaEE or OZCAR, which produce long-term data series.

You will develop methods to characterize the partitioning of water flows at the scale of homogeneous spatial entities. You will design models to represent this partition according to the characteristics of the rainfall event, the initial state of the system and the transfer properties of the unsaturated zone. Finally, you will implement these models on a wide range of soils, climatic conditions and plant cover.

In a second phase, you will tackle more complex systems such as landscape patterns involving lateral redistribution of infiltration flows. You will be able to integrate your results into surface modeling environments developed within the UMR and implemented on various aquifers.

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Training and skills

PhD or equivalent

The position is open to PhD graduates (or equivalent) with training in one or more of the following fields: hydrogeology, hydrology, soil physics, fluid mechanics applied to porous media. Experience in carrying out field measurement campaigns, using geophysics and chemical and isotopic tracing, and in modeling will be appreciated.
Fluency in English and computer skills (programming, use of scientific software) is desirable, as well as an international experience. Candidates who have not already had such experience will be required to spend a period of time abroad within two years after the probationary year.

INRAE's life quality

By joining our teams, you benefit from:

- 30 days of annual leave + 15 days "Reduction of Working Time" (for a full time);
- parenting support: CESU childcare, leisure services;
- skills development systems: training, career advise;
- social support: advice and listening, social assistance and loans;
- holiday and leisure services: holiday vouchers, accommodation at preferential rates;
sports and cultural activities;
- collective catering.

For international scientists: please visit your guide to facilitate your arrival and stay at INRAE

All persons employed by or hosted at INRAE, a public research establishment, are subject to its internal regulations, particularly with regard to the obligation of neutrality and respect for the principle of secularism. In carrying out their functions, whether or not they are in contact with the public, they must not express their religious, philosophical or political convictions through their behaviour or by what they wear.  

Offer reference

  • Profile number: CR-2024-AQUA-1
  • Corps: CR
  • Category: A
  • Open competition number: 3
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