Master position: T2-MSc1 Measuring surface displacement using winter SAR

Posted: July 25, 2019

Anticipated start: Spring 2021 (flexible)

Supervisory team: Dr. Bernhard Rabus, Dr. Stephan Gruber (Carleton University), Dr. Peter Morse (Geological Survey of Canada)

Internship: Northwest Territories Geological Survey NTGS

Research description

This position involves installing a small network of composite instrumentation sites (6+) set up to measure permafrost active layer dynamics simultaneous with snow depth on the ground and with spaceborne InSAR. Each site will be comprised of two ground-based sensors: one tilt logger permafrost motion sensor and one snow height sonic ranger as well as two passive InSAR corner reflectors CR targets for InSAR based displacement measurements. One CR deeply anchored as a stable reference and one CR floating on a soil surface raft and elevated to measure only displacement and not snow depth change. 

The setup used for the sites for this project will be derived from a single proof-of-context site with a similar setup (minus the snow depth ranger) installed on the ITH near Inuvik and routinely observed with spaceborne InSAR. The MSc project will collect and evaluate first the measurements from the existing proof-of-context site against the spaceborne InSAR signal in the immediate surroundings of the site to validate and refine the ground set up for the additional sites. Second, locations for the additional six sites will be chosen to cover a variety of representative permafrost terrain types (site’s surroundings with low surface decorrelation and active layer dynamics spatially homogeneous). After installing the final setup configuration for all sites, they will be observed with InSAR (C-band Radarsat-2, and possibly also X-band TerraSAR-X). 

Project results will include ground-measured seasonal time series of active layer displacement and snow depth, plus InSAR-measured active layer displacement without snow signal (from the CRs) and combined displacement-snow signal (site surroundings). Finally, the student will infer the snow InSAR phase signal by differencing the two InSAR signals and then validate against current theoretical snow phase models with the sonic ranger measurements of snow depth.

Key research tasks

  • Design completed. Build instrumentation and experiment to arrive at optimum sensor configuration; candidate site selection based on spaceborne InSAR
  • Installation completed. Selection of sites near ITH with partners, equipment installation and initial data analysis and comparison with InSAR 
  • Surface displacement and snow water equivalent change calculated from in-situ data, comparison with winter SAR and InSAR phase; manuscript for Geophysical Research Letters

Your profile

  • Passionate research interest and a background in remote sensing
  • Solid programming skills (including C++ and Python)
  • Strong scientific writing skills and high motivation to produce publishable results
  • A very good command of English, both spoken and written. Internet-based TOEFL (93 with minimum of 20 in each category), Paper-based TOEFL (580 and TWE 5), IELTS academic (overall band score of 7.0 of the academic (NOT general) test with a minimum of 6.5 in each section).

What we offer

  • Fully-funded research for 12 month per year, starting at CAD$ 20,000/yr and increasing up to CAD$ 25,000/yr, for full concentration on research and network activities. Through the School of Engineering Science's Graduate Fellowship (GF) and/or Teaching Assistantship Program (TA), applicants generally receive an additional CAD$13,000/yr or more (this additional amount alone is sufficient to cover tuition fees).
  • Internship opportunities especially with partners in northern locations
  • A dynamic and multidisciplinary learning environment
  • State-of-the-art equipment and facilities

To submit an application: Send Dr. Bernhard Rabus ( your letter of interest, CV, copy of transcript(s), and contact information for 3 references. Applications will be reviewed as they are received. All applications will be reviewed by the selection committee with respect to academic qualifications and integration within the network through the PermafrostNet lens on equity, diversity and inclusion. The position will remain open until filled. We thank all applicants for their interest, however, only those individuals selected for an interview will be contacted.