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BIOGRIP Soil and Water Node, Stellenbosch University

2-year Postdoctoral Research Fellowship Available with a

Isotope Hydrology focus

Postdoctoral applicants must have graduated within the last five years


BIOGRIP is the biogeochemistry research infrastructure platform funded by the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) in South Africa. “Biogeochemistry" is the study of how biological, geological, chemical, and physical processes interact to shape natural environments over time and space and the intersection of these natural environments with the human population. It covers a range of interdisciplinary research foci, from the origin and diversification of life, to how anthropogenic drivers alter modern environments, to the response of natural systems to environmental change and how these process and changes impact on human lives. Embedded within BIOGRIP are opportunities for postdoctoral researchers to assist with the fulfilment of BIOGRIP's mandate to develop analytical platforms for biogeochemistry research and to conduct research in the many branches of biogeochemistry.


Project Title: Isotope techniques for the evaluation of water sources and sustainability for domestic water supply in urban and peri-urban areas.

Scope of Research: This project aims to evaluate the ability of O, H, Sr and 222Rn isotopes to understand urban isotope hydrology and its links to biogeochemistry in the greater Cape Town region. The project will examine how these isotope tracers can be used to understand urban water security and sustainability in the face of changing precipitation patterns. Cape Town has previously been strongly dependent on surface water supplies but the recent drought situation highlighted the need to diversify its water source mix. The main target for water supplementation has been groundwater augmentation but abstraction of groundwater has implications for protection of the ecological reserve and the biogeochemical system as a whole. The intersection between urban isotope hydrology and groundwater management is therefore central for determining and improving the drought resilience of the region.

The scientific objectives of this project include:

  1. Collection and analysis of groundwater, surface water and municipal water for characterisation of different water sources and evaluation of spatial mixing relationships within the City of Cape Town Metropolitan Municipality and Drakenstein and Bergrivier Local Municipalities.
  2. Comparison of these relationships with precipitation patterns particularly in the context of climate change and protection of the ecological reserve.
  3. Evaluation of the sustainability of groundwater supplementation to municipal networks through the intersection of isotope hydrology, spatial modelling and biophysical and biogeochemical drivers of land use change.

    This study must include translational research outputs that have societal value and impact. These outputs include:
  1. Engaging with the City of Cape Town Municipality, Drakenstein and Bergrivier Local Municipalities to promote the use of isotopes to model sustainability under different climate change scenarios, with a focus on how private borehole installations can support the municipal water supply network in Cape Town,
  2. Translation of isotope and sustainability modelling results into public service documents for distribution to different types of water users in the target municipal areas as well as Berg River agricultural corridor.

Host: The postdoctoral fellowship will be imbedded in the DSI-funded BIOGRIP Soil and Water Node at SU and will be hosted by the Department of Earth Sciences. The appointed candidate will be required to engage widely with a range of collaborators and with other BIOGRIP members and stakeholders.

Responsibilities: The appointed postdoctoral fellow will be required to project manage the above scope of work and supervise and train undergraduate and postgraduate students as well as produce peer-reviewed publications and assist BIOGRIP in meeting its deliverables.


  • PhD in Geology or Hydrogeology
  • Demonstrated experience with the use of stable isotopes for tracking the movement of water through the hydrological cycle.
  • Demonstrated experience with ArcGIS and experience in spatial interpolation of data and in particular the development and modelling of isoscapes.
  • Practical experience in the installation, running and maintenance of laser-based stable isotope analysers.
  • Demonstrated track record of publication in peer-reviewed international journals commensurate with experience.
  • Must be willing to engage with stakeholders, such as City of Cape town and local water users
  • Although not essential it would be beneficial to have some experience in postgraduate training and supervision.


    Please note that postdoctoral fellows are not appointed as employees and their fellowships are awarded tax free. They are therefore not eligible for employee benefits. 


Commencement of duties: As soon as possible

Closing date: 1 Feb 2021


Enquiries: Send a letter of application, accompanied by a comprehensive curriculum vitae, including list of publications and the names and contact details of at least two referees, to Dr Janine Colling, the manager of the SU BIOGRP node at Applicants should request their referees to forward confidential reports by the closing date directly to the same email address.​