[CRYOLIST] 2 PhD positions in avalanche safety research available at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada

Pascal Haegeli phaegeli at sfu.ca
Thu Nov 16 18:04:27 PST 2017

The Avalanche Research Program at Simon Fraser University is currently 
looking for two PhD students for the fall of 2018.


The proposed project for this PhD position is part of a bigger research 
effort to improve the operational use and value of numerical snowpack 
models among avalanche safety operations in Canada. Recent research has 
shown that coupling numerical weather prediction models with snowpack 
models can predict the main features of the snow stratigraphy. This 
opens new opportunities for getting insight into avalanche conditions in 
areas where direct human observations are sparse. The goal of this PhD 
research project is to combine the existing research with our 
understanding of the human avalanche hazard assessment expertise to 
develop a new, built-in-Canada model chain that not only produces 
weather and snowpack data summaries, but also interprets this 
information in a meaningful way. This research will be conducted in 
close collaboration with avalanche forecasters to ensure the model chain 
provides value-added information and smooth integration into the 
operational avalanche forecasting process.


The proposed project for this PhD position is part of a bigger research 
effort to better understand the risk from avalanches involved in 
helicopter and snowcat assisted backcountry skiing (known as mechanized 
backcountry skiing) and how this risk can be managed through terrain 
selection. Professional mountain guides have tremendous expertise in 
managing avalanche risk. However, while the steps of the process are 
well known, guides have difficulties articulating the underlying 
assessment and decision rules because they are experience-based and have 
become completely intuitive. This lack of formalization prevents a 
careful evaluation of existing risk management practices and the 
development of evidence-based decision aids. Over the last three 
winters, we have documented avalanche risk management practices at six 
collaborating mechanized skiing operations by tracking terrain choices 
of guides. To-date, we have collected high-resolution GPS tracks from 
more than 30,000 ski runs over a wide variety of avalanche hazard 
conditions. The goal of this PhD research project is to ascertain ski 
guides’ expert knowledge and describe existing risk management practices 
by exploring this unique dataset using advanced methods from statistics, 
machine learning and GIS. The extracted rules will be used to develop 
decision aids that help guides and recreationists make better informed 
decision when travelling in avalanche terrain.

Both of these positions have secure funding for 3.5 year. To find out 
more about these PhD opportunities, please visit 
http://www.avalancheresearch.ca/opportunities/ or directly contact 
Pascal Haegeli at pascal_haegeli at sfu.ca. The deadline for application is 
February 1, 2018.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Pascal Haegeli, PhD
Assistant Professor
NSERC Industrial Research Chair in Avalanche Risk Management
School of Resource and Environmental Management
Simon Fraser University
8888 University Drive
Burnaby BC  V5A 1S6  Canada
web: www.avalancheresearch.ca
email: pascal_haegeli at sfu.ca
phone: +1 778 782 3579
cell: +1 604 773 0854

More information about the CRYOLIST mailing list