General Information

If you are interested in graduate studies in applied avalanche safety research at SFU, you can either pursue a graduate degree in Resource and Environmental Management or Geography. Both of these programs offer Master’s and PhD degree programs. Please visit the respective websites for program details and admission requirements.

Students interested in joining SARP should send an e-mail inquiry to Dr. Pascal Haegeli with a description of your research interest, a copy of an up-to-date CV and your transcripts. Inquiries are welcome at anytime regardless of status of current openings.

Openings for Fall 2018

SARP is currently looking for two PhD students and potentially one Master’s student starting with their graduate studies in the fall of 2018.

Application deadlines are:

  • School for Resource and Environmental Management: February 1, 2018
  • Geography: January 22, 2018

PhD 1 - Avalanche Risk management in mechanized skiing operations through terrain selection

The proposed project 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. More information about our current research in this area is available here.

Click here for the complete posting.

PhD 2 - Large-scale avalanche hazard assessment modelling

The proposed project is part of a bigger research effort to improve the operational use and value of numerical snowpack models among avalanche safety operations in Canada. Snowpack models simulate the seasonal evolution of the seasonal snow stratigraphy based on weather information. 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 described in a conceptual model of avalanche hazard (Statham et al., 2017) to develop a complete 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. More information about our current research in this area is available here.

Click here for the complete posting.

Master's - Undefined project in public avalanche safety

The topic of the potential Master’s research project will be in public avalanche safety in collaboration with Avalanche Canada, but the details have not been defined yet. Interested students should explore the SARP website to get a sense of the types of available research topics or get in contact with Dr. Pascal Haegeli.