PhD Studentship: Tracing the methane cycle in peats using bacteriohopanepolyols

University of Plymouth

DoS : Dr Sabine Lengger (,  tel.: 01752 585966)

2nd Supervisor Professor Simon Belt (, tel.: 01752 584959)

Applications are invited for a three-year PhD studentship. The studentship will start on January 1st 2017.

Project Description
Natural wetlands are the largest source of methane, emitting >30% of global emissions, a figure which may increase as a positive feedback to a rise in mean annual air temperatures. While atmospheric methane is monitored globally and locally, the dynamics of the underlying biogeochemical processes are not yet fully understood. It is known that methane produced at depth diffuses upwards, where a proportion is removed by methanotrophic bacteria. However, the extent to which wetland methane emissions are attenuated by this process, and how this will change with rising temperatures, is still unclear. Methane oxidising bacteria of all types possess relatively specific lipids (bacteriohopanepolyols, BHP), which can be used as a proxy to determine their abundance. The student will work on refining methods for BHP analysis in European sphagnum- and sedge-dominated, and tropical wetland samples. The knowledge generated will improve our understanding of the biogeochemistry of methane oxidation and the global methane cycle. The student will receive extensive training in chemical and analytical techniques, carry out fieldwork in local peatlands and interact with national and international collaborators. In this interdisciplinary project, you will be encouraged to interact with ecologists, microbiologists, geographers and geologists. It will suit a student with a BSc/MSc in chemistry or a related science, with skills in organic analytical chemistry, and enthusiasm for biogeochemistry and environmental applications.

Applicants should have a first or upper second class honours degree in an appropriate subject and preferably a relevant MSc or MRes qualification.

The studentship is one of 12 being advertised within the School of Geography Earth and Environmental Sciences with three candidates being selected for funding. The studentship is supported for 3 years and includes full Home/EU tuition fees plus a stipend of £14,296 per annum. The studentship will only fully fund those applicants who are eligible for Home/EU fees with relevant qualifications. Applicants normally required to cover overseas fees will have to cover the difference between the Home/EU and the overseas tuition fee rates (approximately £11,040 per annum).

If you wish to discuss this project further informally, please contact Dr Sabine Lengger,  However, applications must be made in accordance with the details shown below.

General information about applying for a research degree at Plymouth University is available at:

You can apply via the online application form which can be found at: and click ‘Apply’.

Please mark it FAO Sharon Healy and clearly state that you are applying for a PhD studentship within the School of Geography, Earth & Environmental Science.  Please attach a covering letter detailing your suitability for the studentship, a CV and 2 academic references.

For more information on the admissions process please contact Sharon Healy (

The closing date for applications is 12 noon on 4th November 2016. Shortlisted candidates will be invited for interview week beginning 14th November. We regret that we may not be able to respond to all applications. Applicants who have not received an offer of a place by 11th November should consider their application has been unsuccessful on this occasion.

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South West England