NERC GW4+ DTP PhD Studentship: Microorganisms and biogeochemical pathways in tropical wetlands, a combined biomarker and DNA approach

University of Bristol - Faculty of Science - School of Chemistry

The project:

Wetlands are one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems in the world and play a crucial role in biogeochemical cycles. The presence or absence of organism- or process-specific lipids, combined with their isotopic composition, is often used to infer biogeochemical processes such as microbial production of methane. However, a limitation of this approach is that it provides limited information about which organisms are involved in these processes. Recently, multiple suites of either novel or unexpected lipid biomarkers have been discovered in wetlands, most recently illustrated by our discovery of notionally hyperthermophilic membrane lipids in tropical wetlands of low pH. However, the microbial sources remain unknown. A potentially powerful novel approach to increase our understanding of the biogeochemistry in wetlands is to use the distributions of such novel lipids as signposts to metagenomic investigations.

The focus of this interdisciplinary project, therefore, will be a combined lipid/DNA project. The project will involve fieldwork in Brazil to sample pristine tropical wetlands. This will take place in the context of an advanced ERC project led by Prof. Pancost (The Greenhouse Earth System) that includes a major component on understanding the underlying biomarker signature of tropical wetlands. The new peat cores will be analysed for their biomarker lipid and compound-specific isotope composition, using new methodologies developed in partnership with IsoPrime LTD. In addition, the abundance, diversity, and activity of microbial organisms such as methanogenic archaea will be determined using metagenomics approaches and correlated with changes in lipids to identify key biogeochemical processes and the organisms that are involved. This will provide crucial insights into the biogeochemistry and microbiology of tropical wetlands, which is vital to anticpating their response to global warming.

How to apply:

Please make an online application for this project at http://www.bris.ac.uk/pg-howtoapply. Please select NERC Great Western Four Plus Doctoral Training Partnership PhD on the Programme Choice page and enter details of the studentship when prompted in the Funding and Research Details sections of the form.

Candidate requirements: a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK. Applicants with a minimum Upper Second Class degree and significant relevant non-academic experience are encouraged to apply.

Funding: The majority of the studentships are available for applicants who are ordinarily resident in the UK and are classed as UK/EU for tuition fee purposes. A few fully funded studentships across the DTP are available for EU/EEA applicants not ordinarily resident in the UK (please note that this may be subject to change pending post EU referendum discussions). Applicants who are classed as International for tuition fee purposes are not eligible for funding.

Contacts: Prof R.D Pancost, R.D.Pancost@bristol.ac.uk. Contact number: 0117 331 7244.

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Type / Role:

PhD

Location(s):

South West England