Dr Laura Lehtovirta-Morley (School of Biological Sciences, University of East Anglia)
Dr Mark Chapman (School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia)
Dr Peter Mueller (University of Hamburg, Germany; Institute of Plant Science and Microbiology / Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC), USA)
Lisa Benson (Cefas)
Coastal vegetated ecosystems have received much attention for their contribution to climate change mitigation. Especially the high rates of carbon sequestration have been highlighted for these so-called ‘Blue Carbon’ ecosystems (1). In the UK these include salt marshes, which could be very relevant in future carbon crediting schemes. This led to a strong interest in the restoration of salt marshes using managed realignment (i.e. the opening of seawalls to re-introduce tides).
But do these restored marshes function as a carbon sink in the same way as natural marshes (1)? To answer this question, we need to understand the underlying processes in relation to carbon dynamics and microbial ecology in restored marshes, because microbial decomposition is a main driver of carbon loss (2).
You will combine methods from the fields of restoration, biogeochemistry, and microbial ecology. First, to quantify carbon stocks and sequestration rates (3), you will collect soil cores from multiple restoration sites in the UK for carbon analysis and dating (using micropaleontology). Second, you will link the environmental parameters to microbial diversity and functioning in a natural and restored marsh using cutting edge molecular microbial ecology techniques, such as bacterial 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing (4,5). Finally, to identify which microbial groups are responsible for actively breaking down organic carbon into CO2 again, you will set up a microcosm lab experiment using soil from the field and 13C labelled plant material as a tracer.
You will be based at UEA and training will include field sampling, micropaleontology, and molecular microbial ecology techniques (including environmental DNA extraction, PCR, high-throughput Illumina sequencing, DNA-SIP, and bioinformatics). You will join the PhD cohort at UEA, attend training courses on both research and transferable skills and present your work in departmental seminars and at international conferences. This is an exciting opportunity to gain interdisciplinary training at UEA, Cefas, University of Hamburg and SERC.
We are looking for a candidate with a degree in Environmental Sciences, Biological Sciences, Earth Sciences, or other courses delivering similar knowledge and skills. You should have an interest in restoration, biogeochemistry, and/or microbial ecology.