October 10, 2017

Impact of structure and microbial diversity on soil organic carbon under land use change

Impact of structure and microbial diversity on soil organic carbon under land use change

Applications are invited for a PhD by Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Nottingham University and Rothamsted Research on soil organic carbon stabilization.

Climate change is now at the heart of scientific and political discussion and soil, as a carbon sink, is considered a key factor, second only to the oceanic pool. Organic carbon, when stored in the soil, is able to confer important functions to the soil itself, such as water retention and filtration, fertility and nutrient cycling. The way we understand how organic carbon is kept in the soil has changed substantially in very recent years and this new understanding calls for more interdisciplinary experiments. Interestingly, most of the processes involved in the soil carbon transformation and retention happen at a scale of micrometres or smaller, while the effects of those mechanisms can be macroscopically measured in fields and catchments. Land use changes, for example from grassland to cropland, can cause a significant modification of the soil carbon stock and, thus, they represent an ideal situation for investigating which factors contribute to the soil carbon stabilization and, most importantly, how they interact with each other.

The PhD is a mix of field work and laboratory activities. You will identify the sampling sites in the UK to cover a representative range of soil types and land use changes. After sampling, you will image the soils with micro-tomography and analyse them with metagenomics for microbial diversity and activity. You will characterize sample cores for physical properties and carbon turnover rates. At the end of the program you will be able to understand the relationships between soil structure and microbial activity driven by land use change with a wide range of cutting-edge technologies in soil research. Opportunities are available for training and conferences, both in the UK and overseas.

Applicants should hold a minimum of UK Honours Degree at 2:1 or equivalent in subjects such as Environmental Sciences, Physical Geography, Biological Sciences, Ecology, Natural Sciences and Agriculture & Agronomy. Be enthusiastic about outdoor working and laboratory experimentation. A valid driver’s license is a plus.

For further details please contact Dr Claudia Cagnarini at CEH in Bangor