PHD Project

November 9, 2020

Deepwater gunk and slimeballs: Diversity and function of benthic microbes in West Greenland lakes

Deepwater gunk and slimeballs: Diversity and function of benthic microbes in West Greenland lakes

We are looking for a student with interests in Arctic science, microbial ecology and lake ecosystems. Focused on the Kangerlussuaq area of West Greenland, this project will determine the genetic diversity and functional role of benthic microbial communities which live on the bottom of lakes. The impetus for this study derives from the observations that (1) phototrophic microbes appear to be more important for primary productivity, decomposition, methanogenesis and nutrient cycling than microbes which live in the plankton, but they have been studied very infrequently in this lake district and (2) benthic communities in this area have changed over the past 20 years in response to climate warming. The overall aim of the project is therefore is to use genomics and limnology to identify the role of benthic microbial mats in biogeochemical cycling of Arctic lakes. The work plan will involve training in

  1. Methods development for quantitative sampling and analysis of benthic microbes
  2. Lake survey in West Greenland to understand how and why benthic microbial diversity varies across an Arctic lake district
  3. High throughput DNA sequencing for taxonomic richness and community structure (e.g. algae, bacteria, archaea and microbial eukaryotes) and functional gene diversity (e.g. methanogens, phototrophs, nitrogen fixing, EPS producing) of benthic microbes.
  4. Statistical comparisons of microbial diversity and limnological conditions to understand links between microbes and ecosystem-scale biogeochemical properties.
  5. Sediment core (palaeolimnology) analysis of microbial change over recent decades using sedDNA analyses

The project would suit a student who is comfortable with balancing the demands of remote and challenging fieldwork with careful and intensive laboratory analysis. The supervisory team will be based at the University of Nottingham, with part of the work being conducted at UKCEH in Wallingford and the Natural History Museum in London.


Applicants should hold a minimum of a UK Honours degree at 2:1 level or equivalent in subjects such as Biology, Natural Sciences, Geography or Environmental Science. Previous experience and/ or training in limnology, aquatic ecology, phycology, and fieldwork in challenging and varied conditions would be considered an advantage.


For further information about the studentship please e mail Suzanne McGowan