PhD scholarship on: Detecting Groundwater Dynamics from Space

Illustration of the twin GRACE satellites flying over the Atlantic Ocean (Image credit: NASA/JPL, Caltech)Satellites provide us a good opportunity to regularly observe various aspects of hydrological cycle, e.g. rainfall, sunlight, evaporation, atmospheric water content, soil moisture, groundwater, vegetation water content, at regional to global scales. Among these satellites, one unique mission is the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE, March 2002–October 2017) which consists of twin identical satellites taking detailed measurements of Earth’s gravity field anomalies. The GRACE mission opened a new venue for studying groundwater dynamics worldwide. After the decommissioning of GRACE in October 2017, its successor, GRACE-FO, was launched in May 2018. Despite its successful application in groundwater studies, there are some limitations. The first one lies in its coarse spatial resolution (1°, ~100 km), which limits the application of GRACE in groundwater studies over small regions, e.g. farm scale. How to downscale the current GRACE and GRACE-FO datasets to obtain finer spatial information becomes the major challenge. In addition, how to bridge the gap between GRACE and GRACE-FO and generate one harmonized time series is another challenge. 

To address these challenges, applications are invited for the above mentioned PhD scholarships starting from 2022. The PhD will be supervised by Dr Yi Liu (UNSW) based at the Surveying and Geospatial Engineering (SAGE) group and the Water Research Centre (WRC) at UNSW. The PhD will be primarily working at the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering at UNSW, with opportunities for spending considerable time at CSIRO and ANU in Canberra, as well as stints overseas for conferences and training visits.

Applicants with civil and environmental engineering, geospatial engineering, hydrology or other Earth science related background are encouraged to apply. The value of these scholarships will be ~$30,000 per annum (tax free) for up to 3.5 years. Additional top-up stipend (up to 6k per year) will be given to the candidate who is successful in securing their own primary scholarship. Both domestic and international applicants are welcome.  General information regarding the application and scholarships can be found from UNSW Graduate Research ( You can also direct any enquiries to Dr Yi Liu ( with a subject heading “Groundwater from Space PhD scholarship”.

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