Hyper-arid hot deserts experience some of the most severe climatic conditions on Earth, and are often used to understand the potential for life on exoplanets such as Mars. In addition, studying the biology in these environments helps us to understand how ecosystems will respond to future climate change (e.g. extreme drought events). This project aims to define the critical point at which life can survive in these hostile environments in terms of moisture and resource availability. It will focus on the microbial life that exists in desert soils from around the world (e.g. Atacama Desert in Chile, Gibson Desert in Australia). The studentship will use the latest isotope tracer techniques to measure and image microbial activity in soil. It will also use molecular techniques (e.g. metagenomics) to understand the composition and functioning of these communities. The studentship will involve travel to Australia to use the NanoSIMS imaging facility as well as attending conferences on microbial ecology and astrobiology. The PhD is also expected to generate a series of high quality journal publications to enhance the student’s future career prospects.
Applicants should hold (or be expected to achieve) a minimum of a UK Honours Degree at 2:1 level or equivalent in subjects such as Biology, Microbiology, Environmental Science, Geography or Natural Sciences.
For further details please contact Professor Davey Jones firstname.lastname@example.org.